David Randle with a peripatus, also known as a velvet worm, from his bush property in Caversham (image: A. Ballance)
When Dunedin resident David Randle discovered a thriving population of the unusual invertebrate peripatus on his bush-covered Caversham property more than 25 years ago, he didn’t realize that it would lead to him becoming a ‘citizen scientist’ advocating for the protection of the peripatus in the face of a proposed motorway extension. After many years the New Zealand Transport Agency’s Caversham Valley Safety Improvements project last week accepted conditions from the Dunedin City Council that will enable it to proceed with road widening through Caversham. The proposal is subject to some conditions set by the DCC including the recording, translocation and on-going management of peripatus. David Randle and University of Otago ecologist Henrik Moller feel these measures fall short of what’s required, saying that insufficient funds are promised for safeguarding the population and that there is no provision for establishing a community restoration programme.
Alison Ballance meets David Randle for an introduction to a peripatus, sometimes known as a velvet worm, and talks with David and Henrik Moller about the value and challenges of urban conservation.