How much do you know about our Wild Work? As a not-for-profit conservation organisation, Auckland Zoo is committed to safeguarding our beautiful planet, all of its remarkable species, and spectacular landscapes for generations to come. We bring you #Wildwork Wednesday to show you some remarkable people, undertaking extraordinary work in NZ and abroad.

This Wild Work Wednesday, we are raising awareness of one of our small grant recipient projects – Community Conservation of Threatened Mammals and Frogs in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea.

You may have heard a lot about the more intensive conservation projects Auckland Zoo supports with the help of our Conservation Fund, but did you know within that fund, is also a Small Grants Programme? To date, the Auckland Zoo Conservation Fund has raised over $4,000,000 to support a wide variety of conservation projects aligned with our work and values. Staff at Auckland Zoo are also supported to develop and utilise their specialist skills, and participate in field conservation initiatives, with our staff members contributing around 11,000 hours each and every year, working on conservation projects led by us or our partners.

The purpose of the Small Grants Programme is to support and provide small levels of funding for ongoing projects or pilot programmes with conservation value. These are often smaller projects that make a difference on the ground in smaller communities, and provide education, research opportunities, and even community engagement to help communities help themselves. Applications close on Sunday 14 April 2019 for the next round of small grant recipients – the emphasis this year is on freshwater focused conservation work.

Small grants don’t have to ‘save the world’, but we believe every little bit helps, and there is no project too small to make a difference, especially in smaller, or developing communities. A recent project we’ve funded saw a University of Queensland grant recipient team up with Kainake Project Bougainville, to support ongoing community engagement and data collection for the Bougainville bat, amongst other species. Collecting data of threatened species is imperative for research and any efforts undertaken to save such species – how can something be saved, that little is known about?

To collect baseline data the team set up an elevational transect from lowland at 100 metres elevation, to montane forest at 2000 metres above sea level, to survey all mammals and small terrestrial animals that occupied this space. Small mammal traps, mist nets, camera traps, and spotlighting were used to sample the fauna along the elevational transects. Data was collected on species localities and numbers, customary land boundaries, apparent threats, traditional ecological knowledge, and long-term species management. Camera traps also helped provide images to assist with data collection.

Locals are given the tools to continue this kind of work, learning about the techniques and equipment used to carry out this scientific research, and 40 field assistants were engaged to help carry out trapping, setting up camp, providing local foods, and cutting tracks. Two primary schools and five community groups were met with during the project – community engagement and education is generally a really important part of a small grant. Giving these communities the knowledge and skills to continue important work, and raise awareness and interest on conservation issues is best way to ensure the project’s success into the future.

If you, or someone you know has a small conservation focused project that we could support, ask them to look at our Small Grants Programme application criteria.