Kete in conservation
Weaving together western and Māori knowledge
Nestled in specially designed kete/baskets made from harakeke/flax, 150 kākahi/freshwater mussels recently made their way to their new home in Zealandia Te Māra a Tāne.
In this latest wildlife translocation, the second of its kind, Māori and western science combined to create the best handling method for the rare freshwater creatures.
Tangata whenua traditionally used a kete with sphagnum moss insulation to translocate aquatic animals to new environments as part of ahumoana twahito/ancient aquaculture.
The western or modern approach has been to use plastic buckets filled with water and a bubbler.
Based on trials by PhD student and Riverscapes ecologist Amber McEwan during the first kākahi translocation in 2018, a hybrid approach of a kete within a bucket with a bubbler was determined to be the best method.
The kete in this translocation were extra special as they were custom woven just for the kākahi, by the talented members of te Roopu Rāranga o Manaia, a group that is supported by the Wellington Tenths Trust and works out by Hīkoikoi Reserve in Petone.
Each kete were designed to fit into the buckets as well as have a loose weave to allow for water flow and aeration of the kākahi. Each kete was woven to fit about 30 kākahi, with a smooth inside so the mussels wouldn’t get caught up on anything. They even have a strap so kākahi collectors could more easily wear them as they shuffled around the roto/lake, bending down to pick up the mussels!
These kete are woven in the style of waikawa, which involves using the whole rau/leaf of harakeke. The bottom of the harakeke is quite thick, and these come together to form a sturdy, flat square base. Impressively, the same rau/leaf is used in both the body of the kete as well braided through the top. The raw harakeke eventually hardens so it’s almost like wood – the weavers assured us that these kete were very sturdy so not to worry about loading them up!
The kākahi have been rehomed in Roto Māhanga/upper reservoir to increase genetic diversity and breeding success of the existing kākahi population.