Pos­sums tar­geted in 1080 drop

Taranaki Daily News - - News - Mike Wat­son

A Taranaki con­ser­va­tion group will use the 1080 poi­son to kick­start a wide­spread, year-long pest de­struc­tion pro­gramme on Eg­mont Na­tional Park.

Taranaki Mounga plans a two stage ‘‘re­move and de­fend’’ as­sault us­ing the toxin be­gin­ning in March.

Pos­sums will be the pri­or­ity in the first aerial 1080 drop over a

4800ha bush area in the Kaitake Ranges, west of New Ply­mouth.

A sec­ond 1080 drop, also tar­get­ing pos­sums, will cover

31,000ha over the re­main­der of the na­tional park, in­clud­ing the Pouakai Ranges, later this year.

The group will also work with com­mu­nity groups and iwi to tar­get stoats us­ing traps in Kaitake and Pouakai Ranges, and Kaupokonui, South Taranaki, later this year.

The aim is to get preda­tor num­bers to less than five per cent, and re­store the ecosys­tem and en­able na­tive birds, such as kiwi, and fauna to re-es­tab­lish in the na­tional park.

Taranaki Mounga project man­ager Sean Zielt­jes said while the first stage of the op­er­a­tion in the Kaitake Ranges would tar­get pos­sums, part of the ‘‘ben­e­fi­cial by-kill’’ of the op­er­a­tion would be rats, stoats and fer­rets.

The pest pro­gramme is part of the $11.7m To­wards Preda­tor-Free Taranaki project co­or­di­nated by the Taranaki Re­gional Coun­cil and funded by Preda­tor Free NZ, and in­volves a num­ber of vol­un­teer groups in clear­ing ur­ban and ru­ral ar­eas of preda­tors by 2050.

The re­gional coun­cil is also co­or­di­nat­ing a pest op­er­a­tion among ru­ral res­i­dents bor­der­ing New Ply­mouth.

‘‘The re­move and de­fend op­er­a­tion ob­jec­tive is to kill pos­sums and pre­vent them from reestab­lish­ing, but ev­ery pest in the park will also be tar­geted,’’ Zielt­jes said.

‘‘The op­er­a­tion is in­no­va­tive and am­bi­tious but is es­sen­tial be­cause we have huge num­bers of pests in the park.’’

A pre-feed op­er­a­tion will oc­cur in March be­fore Ospri con­trac­tors start re­leas­ing 1080 within six weeks of the pre feed.

It is the fourth aerial 1080 drop to be co-or­di­nated in Eg­mont Na­tional Park since 1992.

The en­tire na­tional park will have been cov­ered by the aerial 1080 op­er­a­tion by the end of the year, Zielt­jes said.

The group ex­pected anti-1080 protests when the op­er­a­tion was un­der way, he said.

‘‘The op­er­a­tion here is the ear­li­est in New Zealand to get the best weather win­dow.

‘‘We’ve had meet­ings with stake­hold­ers and iwi to let them know what is hap­pen­ing, and we are be­ing as open as we can with our in­ten­tions.’’

In 2016 six anti-1080 pro­test­ers blocked ac­cess to mo­torists at the North Eg­mont en­trance of the park.

Taranaki Mounga also used around 2160 A24 gas-pow­ered, self-set­ting traps, and 3000 DOC200 traps for pest con­trol in the Kaitake Ranges and over a 1000ha area in the na­tional park.

It is the first time a pest op­er­a­tion in the coun­try had used both traps and 1080 to con­trol preda­tor num­bers, Zielt­jes said.

‘‘The A24 and DOC200 are both good tools, but we are un­sure if we can de­ploy enough of them over the area to be ef­fi­cient,’’ he said.

‘‘1080 is best for larger preda­tors like pos­sums, while the DOC200 trap is ideal for stoats, and the pow­er­ful DOC250 is more suit­able for fer­rets.

‘‘Our aim this year is to find the best tools avail­able, and we have to have some­thing that works.

‘‘We have in­cred­i­bly high rat num­bers in the park as shown by our tun­nel track­ing, and the rats dec­i­mate the na­tive birds.’’

Added to the task for the group in 2019 is an ex­pected high ‘‘mast’’ event of na­tive trees, in­clud­ing rimu, from late sum­mer on­wards and peak­ing in au­tumn, Zielt­jes said.

‘‘We will get an un­usu­ally high amount of fruit­ing from the na­tive trees which meant more food for pests.’’

The mast is de­scribed as a ‘‘fruit salad’’ feast for pests, he said.

‘‘As a re­sult we ex­pect to get rats, rats and more rats.’’

Zielt­jes said the wide­spread use of 1080 in the na­tional park was es­sen­tial to keep pest num­ber man­age­able.

‘‘The DOC200 and A24 traps would not ef­fi­ciently tar­get all the pests in the con­text of our re­move and de­fend tar­gets.

‘‘Once the pos­sums are re­moved, the traps will be used to pre­vent them from reestab­lish­ing.’’

SI­MON O’CON­NOR/STUFF

Taranaki Mounga project man­ager Sean Zielt­jes said while the first stage of the op­er­a­tion in the Kaitake Ranges would tar­get pos­sums, part of the ‘‘ben­e­fi­cial by-kill’’ of the op­er­a­tion would be rats, stoats and fer­rets.

Stoats prey on na­tive birds in the na­tional park.

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