Regan Norton, a Year 5 student at Sunnyhills Primary School, may seem an unlikely rat catcher, but this 10-year-old from east Auckland has successfully caught four rodents in her back yard.
“The rats are killing all our native animals and I really like birds,” says Regan, who is not afraid of rats but thinks they are a nuisance as they endanger native animals.
However she admits that their tails “do freak her out” since “they have no fur on them”.
Regan’s school runs an Education for Sustainability programme, for all classes, with a specialist teacher and dedicated classroom.
She was inspired to start trapping after her Enviro lessons focussed on how to encourage more native birds in the local area.
With her family, she attended the ‘Pestival’ hosted at the school with Auckland City Council and Enviroschools, where the importance of reducing pest species that attack birds was discussed and rat traps were given out.
Regan’s family is just one of many who trap in their backyards in an effort to save native birds.
The school’s involvement in the effort to save native birds, is not without controversy. An HBO news item entitled ‘Kids in New Zealand are out to kill the county’s invasive mammals’, featuring Sunnyhills, received considerable online backlash.
Many online commentators questioned the need to kill introduced species or the involvement of children.
Environmental teacher Christine Daniel defends the involvement of students and their families saying, “Pests are driving the extinction of our native fauna. It would be wonderful if more families and schools across New Zealand took part in the Predator Free 2050 campaign”.
Sunnyhills School’s pest-free efforts are not limited to the school grounds and family backyards.
The school also held a farmers market, where the children sold the vegetables they had grown in the school’s edible gardens to fund a trap in the Thames Coast Kiwi Sanctuary.
The Sunnyhills School community follows the number of pests trapped on an app and the tally chart updated in school hall. Each pest trapped is seen as bettering a Kiwi’s chance of survival.