New Zealand to ex­ter­mi­nate in­tro­duced preda­tors

Lesotho Times - - International -

LON­DON — The New Zealand gov­ern­ment has an­nounced a “world-first” project to make the na­tion preda­tor free by 2050.

The prime min­is­ter, John Key, said on Mon­day it would un­der­take a rad­i­cal pest ex­ter­mi­na­tion pro­gramme — which if suc­cess­ful would be a global first — aim­ing to wipe out the in­tro­duced species of rats, stoats and pos­sums na­tion-wide in a mere 34 years.

Ac­cord­ing to the gov­ern­ment, in­tro­duced species kill 25m na­tive New Zealand birds a year in­clud­ing the iconic ground-dwelling, flight­less Kiwi, which die at a rate of 20 a week, and now num­ber fewer than 70,000.

The gov­ern­ment es­ti­mates the cost of in­tro­duced species to the New Zealand econ­omy and pri­mary sec­tor to be Nz$3.3bn (£1.76bn) a year.

“Our am­bi­tion is that by 2050 ev­ery sin­gle part of New Zealand will be com­pletely free of rats, stoats and pos­sums,” said Key in a state­ment.

“This is the most am­bi­tious con­ser­va­tion project at­tempted any­where in the world, but we be­lieve if we all work to­gether as a coun­try we can achieve it.”

Ex­ist­ing pest con­trol meth­ods in New Zealand in­clude the con­tro­ver­sial and wide­spread use of 1080 aerial poi­son drops, trap­ping and ground bait­ing, and pos­sum hunt­ing by ground hunters (pos­sum fur has be­come a vi­brant in­dus­try in New Zealand, and is used for win­ter cloth­ing).

Emer­i­tus Pro­fes­sor of Con­ser­va­tion Mick Clout from the Univer­sity of Auck­land said he was “ex­cited” by the “am­bi­tious plan” which if achieved would be a “re­mark­able world first”.

“Even the in­ten­tion of mak­ing New Zealand preda­tor free is hugely sig­nif­i­cant and now it has money and the gov­ern­ment be­hind it I be­lieve it is pos­si­ble, I am ac­tu­ally very ex­cited,” said Clout.

“The big­gest chal­lenge will be the rats and mice in ur­ban ar­eas. For this project to work it will need the ur­ban com­mu­ni­ties to get on board. Pos­sum ex­ter­mi­na­tion will be the eas­i­est be­cause they only breed once a year and there are al­ready ef­fec­tive con­trol meth­ods in place.”

Econ­o­mist and phi­lan­thropist Gareth Mor­gan, of the Mor­gan Foun­da­tion, said he was “ec­static” about the gov­ern­ment’s an­nounce­ment.

“This is the first time the gov­ern­ment has re­ally swung in be­hind in­vest­ing in New Zealand’s en­vi­ron­men­tal cap­i­tal,” he said.

“This is a big, am­bi­tious project but with the gov­ern­ment mak­ing it a pri­or­ity you will see in­creased in­ter­est in the sec­tor, and fur­ther ex­plo­ration of in­no­va­tive trap­ping and ex­ter­mi­na­tion tech­niques be­yond toxic chem­i­cals like 1080.”

The Royal So­ci­ety of New Zealand For­est and Bird was op­ti­mistic about the coun­try’s chances of suc­cess. Ad­vo­cacy man­ager Kevin Hack­well said: “I think 2050 is a con­ser­va­tive goal, we could be on track to do­ing it by 2040. The gov­ern­ment has just come on board but many groups around New Zealand have been work­ing to­wards be­ing preda­tor-free for years.”

“New Zealand is a world-leader in erad­i­cat­ing rats from the land­scape. New Zealand can’t go preda­tor free with­out tar­get­ing the cities so we will have to look to places like Al­berta, Canada, on how to tackle rat in­fes­ta­tion in an ur­ban en­vi­ron­ment. But it is doable, and not that hard.

“A preda­tor-free New Zealand has been Na­tional party pol­icy for the last three elec­tions, but now it has gone from be­ing the gov­ern­ing party pol­icy to be­com­ing gov­ern­ment pol­icy. But Na­tional has al­ready in­vested a lot of money and re­sources into re­search on this.

“The big­gest hur­dle in the end will be pub­lic sup­port for the project. That will be the most im­por­tant facet of this.” — Guardian

POS­SUMS, stoats AND other In­tro­duced pests to BE killed In ‘world-first’ Ex­ter­mi­na­tion pro­gramme.

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