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Predator control paused

Trapping efforts have been paused during lockdown. PHOTO/FILE

ARTHUR HAWKES
[email protected]

Greater Wellington Regional Council has said that pest controls have been ceased across the region since the Level Four lockdown measures were put into place.

This has big implications for regional birdlife and biodiversity, which are under threat from predators known as mustelids [stoats, weasels and ferrets], as well as brushtail possums, numbering about 30 million in the country.

Pukaha National Wildlife Centre traps its 942 hectares, and also works in partnership with GWRC and Horizons Regional Council to trap a further 2600 ha alongside.

But trapping is now at zero, with contractors and the council standing down, in an effort to combat covid-19.

Pukaha general manager Emily Court understands the need to keep people safe during covid-19, “and that includes the staff of Greater Wellington and Horizon regional councils”.

“Rather than just fight the predators once they’re in our reserves it’s important to stop them getting in. Hence the buffer zone: a cushion around the reserve.

“If we can keep that predator-free then the likelihood of them getting into the reserve and killing kiwi and other species is much lower. It’s a real concern for us.”

Pukaha’s reserve contains diverse endemic birdlife such as kaka, tui, okako, and kiwi.

Threatened reptiles like copper skinks and barking geckos are also present on the reserve.

Court said she would feel more comfortable if trapping continued in known hot-spots, for mustelids in particular.

Nigel Boniface co-ordinates trapping around Mt Holdsworth, done by volunteers.

While unaffiliated with GWRC, they have also stopped operations due to the lockdown.

They go out once a fortnight, targeting rats, mice, possums, and stoats.

“They’re not breeding at this time of the year, and any young ones should have left the nest, so it probably won’t affect them too much at the moment,” Boniface said.

“But all the time we’re not up there trapping them, they’re probably happily breeding away themselves.”

Despite the hiatus on trapping, GWRC wants to remind people that they can still do their bit in the garden.

“Although Predator Free Wellington and Wellington City Council have also put pest control operations on hold, good work is still under way – as residents take up the call to do their part in their backyards,” a GWRC spokesperson said.

“Already there has been a fantastic response to Predator Free Wellington’s campaign #LockDownKnockDown, which you can take part in online.”

However, Boniface notes that those without traps cannot simply journey to Mitre 10 to buy one, as they are not available as essential.

Court wants to see trapping phased back in, but only in a safe, socially distanced manner.

“We don’t want people out there doing full days trapping, but if we’re allowed to do a couple of hours here and there, just to set and reset traps in those hotspots, we would be much more comfortable than we feel right now.”

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