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Nudging closer to predator free

The Predator Free movement has been steadily gaining ground in the greater Wellington area.

Ironically, one of merchant banker Prime Minister John Key’s most impressive achievements was setting the aspirational goal of eliminating five predators – possums, rats, stoats, weasels and ferrets – from mainland New Zealand by 2050. Paul Callaghan, the greatly-admired late scientist, called it “Aotearoa’s moon shot equivalent”.

The idea of our unique species of birds, frogs, lizards and plants being safe from extinction and thriving might have been aspirational, but Predator Free Wellington reported earlier this month that the Miramar Peninsular was now, at least at this moment in time, clear of predators. It had taken 217,160 trap checks, 289,977 bait station checks and about 1284 volunteer hours a year to achieve the result.

There is the same sort of enthusiasm among the predator free groups working in the Wairarapa towns – Masterton, Carterton, Greytown and Featherston. These urban trapping projects have had the assistance of Wairarapa’s Pūkaha to Kawakawa Alliance [P2K] and local sponsors.

To further bolster the progress being made to date, a special ‘More Birds in the Bush’ collaboration is being held in Masterton next Tuesday and Wednesday, June 18 and 19.

This two-day webinar based on the latest Landcare Research [Manaaki Whenua] predator control research is also involving Forest & Bird, Sustainable Wairarapa and P2K. The event – from 9.00am to 4.30pm daily – can be watched at home, or those interested can attend at Changeability, 5 Victoria Street, Masterton, to hear further local discussion following the 10 short webinar presentations screening each day, each covering some aspect of the extensive research Manaaki Whenua has undertaken over the last five years to help guide future work aimed at controlling predators.

Topics include how predators will respond as the climate warms. At present, native birds have some refuge at higher, and colder, altitudes, but that may change. There is also the issue of how predators respond to ‘masting’ events when kahikatea and other native trees produce extremely heavy flowering and fruiting, which then produce enormous amounts of seed initiating a food chain disastrous for birds. The extra seed leads to a leap in the mouse population, an explosion of rats and a consequent surge in stoat numbers. Then, when the seed is gone, the mice and rat populations collapse, and the hungry stoats turn to birds.

Another discussion will be the importance of fenced sanctuaries for predator elimination or suppression. Some birds, such as the kakapo, require elimination of predators, while kiwi, for example, can manage with high levels of predator suppression. The Capital Kiwi project has shown that kiwi have been successfully released in the farmland between Karori and Makara following well-organised stoat control efforts. Recently, kiwi have been even seen on the decks or at the doors of Wellington homes.

    To participate, remotely or in person, in the ‘More Birds in the Bush’ and check the agenda contact https//www.landcarererearch.co.nz/events/more-birds-in-the-bush- end- of-programme-event/

Roger Parker
Roger Parker
Roger Parker is the Times-Age news director. In the Venn-diagram of his two great loves, news and sport, sports news is the sweet spot.

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