DOC ramps up bat­tle for birds

Central Otago Mirror - - NEWS - By MARY-JO TO­HILL

Just how likely is it that tram­pers will en­counter moa, in the Dart Val­ley, in 50 to 100 years’ time?

It’s a ques­tion the Mir­ror put to the De­part­ment of Con­ser­va­tion re­cently, whenMP Trevor Mal­lard’s wish­ful think­ing about the moa’s restora­tion to the Wainuiomata Hills cre­ated a mild me­dia ruckus.

And we got a cour­te­ous but cool re­sponse from the Wakatipu de­part­ment’s con­ser­va­tion part­ner­ships man­ager Greg Lind.

‘‘Rest as­sured Queen­stown DOC is not go­ing to re­ply to this ‘op­por­tu­nity’.’’

He po­litely added ‘‘Thanks all the same’’ and a smi­ley face.

OK, the ques­tion could have been in­ter­preted as be­ing face­tious, maybe a bit tongue in cheek to con­ser­va­tion­ists, who ob­vi­ously have their hands full try­ing to keep preda­tors from knuck­ling our na­tive birds. Why ‘‘de-ex­tinct’’ birds when we’re strug­gling to keep the cur­rent species from be­com­ing ex­tinct?

Maybe DOC’s ret­i­cence can be ex­plained when the bomb­shell hit a few weeks later, in the form of New Zealand’s big­gest planned 1080 drop, which re­vealed just how se­ri­ous the preda­tor threat is in South Is­land forests.

A ‘‘beech mast’’ had been pre­dicted in au­tumn this year. This is when beech trees pro­duce an over­abun­dance of seeds, which trig­gers a preda­tor ex­plo­sion. More seeds means more ro­dents and stoats – bad news for na­tive birds. When seed sup­plies run out, the furry for­est en­e­mies will turn on en­dan­gered species, such as mo¯ hua, ka¯ ka¯ , kea, whio and kiwi along with bats and land snails, also at risk.

Op­er­a­tions would be car­ried out in 29 forests, across 700,000 hectares, start­ing this month and fin­ish­ing in Novem­ber, to save na­tive birds from ex­tinc­tion.

One thing’s for sure, con­ser­va­tion­ists are go­ing to war and the bat­tle lines have been drawn. Look out preda­tors, DOC’s tak­ing no pris­on­ers.

Photo: SUP­PLIED

Hit list: Stoats are a key tar­get in New Zealand’s largest preda­tor con­trol pro­gramme "Bat­tle for the Birds".

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