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Fence system electrifies Tuataras future


The Kiwi may symbolise New Zealand’s most iconic endangered species, but the Tuatara comes a close second, narrowly avoiding extinction thanks to the efforts of volunteer groups, DoC and focused conservation initiatives.

Gallagher has also helped play a key role in improving the odds for the humble Tuatara in recent years. The company’s innovative fencing technology has been successfully adapted for use in protecting a Tuatara sanctuary in the Southland region.

Two years ago Gallagher’s then Southland territory manager Lindsay Whyte worked closely with the Southland Museum and Art Gallery (SMAG), local iwi and DoC to help develop an enclosure that could take the over flow population of Tuatara resulting from the SMAG’s successful breeding programme.

Combining many Gallagher electric fence components with some smart design features, Lindsay oversaw the construction of the six meter by six metre enclosure.

Now thanks to its success, and a generous donation to the programme, that enclosure has recently been increased significantly by 30m housing 40 young Tuatara.

“The environment we were building the enclosure in is pretty tough. You get howling southerlies there, and they carry a lot of salt off the ocean with them, which is always a challenge for keeping electric fence systems effective, and materials in good condition,” says Lindsay.

Gallagher has proven experience with wild life enclosures. This includes providing components for the 45km predator proof fence enclosing 3400ha of native bush at the Maungatautari Reserve near Cambridge in the Waikato.

The Southland design incorporates some aspects of this enclosure, albeit on a smaller scale. This includes a smooth curved stainless steel fairing along the top of the main fence to discourage pests attempting to climb over the top.

Further discouragement is provided with a four wire electrified fence running around the perimeter above the stainless steel fairing.

Below the stainless steel the enclosure is fenced with stainless steel chicken wire mesh, and a three wire electrified base. The mesh extends into the ground by 200mm to help stop rodents digging under it.

The electrified enclosure’s “kick” comes from a solar powered Gallagher B280 Energizer unit. Capable of comfortably electrifying a fence on a 15ha block the B280 provides ample power to deter the most determined rodents.

Its constant vigilance against predator invasion is assured, thanks to a deep cycle battery which ensures even after 10 days of dull Southland weather the unit continues to protect the enclosure’s valuable reptiles.

The B280 was also chosen because its 2.8 Joules of stored energy mean it can cope with an environment where salt can accumulate on insulators and vegetation can accumulate around wires, both which can impact output efficiency.

Lindsay says the enclosure not only features Gallagher components in the fence insulators and Energizer, but also includes a few innovations that help increase the odds for the Tuatara.

“That includes having a lot of nails upside down above the solar unit to stop sea birds landing and mucking on the solar panels.”

The Gallagher fence system is playing a key part in helping the SMAG determine whether to go ahead with a southern island restoration project for Tuatara habitation in the future.

Those in the enclosure have exhibited good growth that provides an ideal “toughening up” prior to relocation, and helps to ease the pressure on the Museum’s own Tuatarium in Invercargill.

Lindsay says there has also been interest from conservation groups in pest proof designs that could enable them to protect species on the Otago Peninsula from possums and stoats.

Lindsay is now working as Gallagher’s territory manager for Otago, with Jamie McKenzie the Southland manager. However he continues to keep a proprietorial eye on the project’s on-going success.

“The Tutatara project has been very rewarding, and proven even in that tough environment the Gallagher technology is an effective, low cost means to really make a difference to the numbers of an endangered species,” he says.