Eva McGeoch and her peers at Stratford Primary are busy little farmers.

They aren't growing maize or other crops however, nor are they raising cattle or sheep. Their produce is of the worm variety. Mealworms to be precise.

"They are an important food source," explains the 10-year-old.

"Not for us, but for toutowai."


Toutowai, also known as the North Island robin, is a friendly bird which makes its home in native and exotic forests.

Only slightly larger than a house sparrow, the robin is about to be reintroduced to Mt Taranaki after an absence of more than 110 years.

Ecological restoration project Taranaki Mounga plans to translocate toutowai from Pureora Forest on to the mountain this month. In the lead-up, kindergartens, schools, community groups and even petroleum workers have been busy farming the mealworms.

Shell NZ is one of the founding sponsors for Taranaki Mounga and mealworms are being farmed at its New Plymouth office and Kapuni Production station.

Eva says they are "pretty easy" to look after, requiring just a plastic container with a few air holes to live in, and they don't eat much either.

"We have to go through every now and then and separate the adults from the larvae and that's it."

This Saturday 40 toutowai are due to be released on the mountain, with a second, smaller, release set for the following Wednesday. In both instances they are being released in an area of non-toxic rat control - self re-setting A24 traps are being used in what is the largest network of self-resetting traps ever deployed - 2000 traps over 1000ha.

Eva says she is pleased to know she and her friends are helping bring the birds back to the mountain and says she thinks it is important "everyone does something to help look after our nature and wildlife".