Taking the fight to kiwi predators
Predator control is a war, and the people on the front line think we can win it.
Those involved with conservation of the kiwi and other endangered species believe we are making progress in the fight.
After losing 14 kiwi to predation from 2014 to 2016, Pukaha Mt Bruce Wildlife Centre didn’t lose a single one in 2017 and managed to trap 40 ferrets, 55 stoats and 516 rats.
Pukaha conservation manager Todd Jenkinson said that was thanks to the adaptation of new technologies and the diligence of the people who eliminated predators before they had a chance to even smell a kiwi.
John Bissell runs Backblocks Environmental Management and is contracted by Pukaha to control predators.
After about 20 years working in pest and predator control, Bissell had seen an evolution in the field with the knowledge and technology around it constantly changing.
Predator Free 2050 put things into the forefront of the public mind. Though some viewed it as political, it sparked interest in what was being done to reduce the number of predators and increase the survival rate of native birds and wildlife, he said.
‘‘We are fighting a war here. We don’t win every battle but we are making progress.
‘‘At Pukaha the kiwi get a lot of the press but outside of that there are amazing things happening with ko¯kako, ka¯ ka¯ , whiteheads and other species.
‘‘I’m passionate about trapping, about doing my job properly. You have to be so fussy about it. There are so many things you can do around a trap to increase the effectiveness. Variation of trapping methods is also key.’’
Bissell likened trapping to fishing in that you sometimes have to vary what you do to get the same result. Data collection was also extremely important.
‘‘Data is . . . critical to understanding. I speak to gamekeepers in the UK and trappers in the United States to stay ahead. We have developed our systems to be able to respond quickly in the advent of a predator attack in the reserve.
‘‘After an incident we have a response in action within hours. I have special baits in my freezer ready to go. We lost a kiwi in March and within days we had trapped three ferrets at the site, and have had no losses since.
‘‘We are taking the attack to the predators. If we do that, we have a better chance of winning this war.’’
Jenkinson said although there were setbacks, they felt they were slowly winning the fight.
‘‘We need the whole community to get in behind us. Everybody has to play their part by trapping pests in their own back yards and being responsible with their pets.
‘‘The public need to understand the importance of neutering cats and not dumping unwanted kittens. With greater education, especially of our kids, we will get there.’’
Ko¯ kako numbers are up at Pukaha and other species have also noticeably increased, says John Bissell, of Backblocks Environmental Management.