May 8: Mana Island

Let’s go to Mana Island… at night!

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Below are some talking points and activities to pass the time, all relating to today’s story.

Talking points

Discuss the ideas presented in the story with your family—at home or over video conferencing. Find ways to involve as many people as possible, especially those who you know are isolated by the lock-down.

  • In the photo of the wētā, what can you guess about its methods of getting food and escaping predators based on its body parts? Do you know what the indentations on its knees are for? (Hint—it’s to do with one of the five senses.)
  • Do you think this wētā is beautiful in any way? Which animals do you think might prey on wētā? Wētā were around at the same time as dinosaurs—does there seem to be anything dinosaur-like about it to you?
  • Is there anything interesting you notice about the animals in the other photos, such as their colouring? What do you think Rob Suisted, the photographer, had to do to capture these photos? Have you had a go at wildlife photography, or would you like to one day? If so, can you think of a good way to practice?
  • The Cook Straight giant wētā has become especially big because until recent centuries there was a lack of predators. Have you heard of “gigantism” in species before? Do you know of any other giant species? Did you know there is a giant earthworm north of Auckland that can be thicker than 10cm across and longer than a metre? Why do you think giant species are fun or interesting to a lot of people?
  • Why do you think “nitrogen-rich guano” might be so helpful for supporting invertebrate populations on the island? What about the burrows dug by seabirds—why might these help invertebrates?
  • To help seabird populations settle on Mana island, volunteers translocated about 700 baby birds and hand-fed them 11,000 meals with syringes. Why do you think people are so willing to go to all that effort? How do you think local people feel about Mana Island? Do you think islands like Mana have an impact on the native wildlife in the area around the island?

Task—Make a tracking tunnel

Did you know you can make a simple tunnel to detect which critters are out and about in your backyard at night?

You may find your tunnel is visited by rats, mice or hedgehogs. You might also be lucky and find some wētā tracks. (Have a look at the wētā’s feet in the top photo in the article. What do you think wētā footprints might look like?)

  1. Get a plastic lid, such as a margarine tub lid.
  2. Fold a kitchen towel onto the lid and cover it with a solution of food colouring and water. It should be quite damp.
  3. Place a dab of peanut butter in the middle of the tissue. This is what attracts animals to enter the tunnel.
  4. Slide the lid into a cardboard tunnel—you can make the tunnel out of folded cardboard or use a square milk bottle with both ends cut off.
  5. Place the tunnel outside in a sheltered place you think critters might visit. Add something as a waterproof cover—the lid of a plastic drum or bucket works well.

Make sure to check it in the morning!

Send us a picture of your tracking tunnel!