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50 years of Conservation Week Sept 14 to 22

A rat measuring about 25 centimetres from nose to rear and with a tail of similar length is not the biggest a young Tolaga Bay pest trapper has seen.

Rhonda Matete posted on Facebook a photo of the rat caught by her son Riley Morgan.

The post gained more than 800 reactions and many shocked comments, but Riley did not understand what all the fuss was about.

He had seen and caught bigger rats, he said.

“Catching the rat didn’t really faze me,” he said.

“I’m just glad it’s one less rat doing damage to the environment.”

Riley, a Year 10 student at Tolaga Bay Area School, enjoys everything about environmental sustainability.

“I like going outdoors and connecting with Mother Nature.

“I’d prefer to be doing more outdoors stuff than sitting in the classroom.”

He wants to join the NCEA-accredited sustainability class when he moves into Year 11.

The class started in 2015 and is taught by Richard Tuhaka.

“Riley always talks to me about the traps,” Mr Tuhaka said.

The class focuses on trapping pests and predators, as well as learning about waterways and the creatures that live in these.

“I don’t think the rat is as big as the ones we have caught in the class,” he said.

Mr Tuhaka believes the rat in the photo is a ship rat because the tail looks longer than the body.

There are traps around the school and neighbouring farmland, and some students have their own traps on their properties.

“We have trapped about 200 rats since we started this class,” said Mr Tuhaka.

“We use a heavy-duty trap and teach all the students how to use it safely and correctly,” Mr Tuhaka said.

The students love it, he said.

“They are a good bunch of kids, they all really seem to enjoy the mahi (work).”

“The class really opens them up to opportunities and it gives them collaborative work to do.”

They use the website trap.nz to log all the information they have about the trapped rats.

NOW THIS IS A RAT!: East Coast teenager Riley Morgan loves trapping rats . . . whatever the size. This picture of him holding a monster of a rodent was posted on Facebook by mother Rhonda Matete. It’s a rat all right — measuring nearly 50 centimetres in length from head to the tip of its tail — but Riley pointed out that he’s caught bigger. “I’m just glad it’s one less rat doing damage to the environment,” he says, an apt comment during Conservation Week 2019. However big they are, rats are devastating to native species as shown above as a rat preys on a fantail. Riley and his Tolaga Bay Area School classmates are doing their bit to help eradicate them through trapping. Picture by Rhonda Matete
CALL THAT A RAT? An average-sized rat. Picture by David Mudge