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Kaitoke West/Akatarawa Saddle possum control

26 April 2005

Kaitoke West/Akatarawa Saddle possum control

Possum control using 1080 is planned between July and September this year in two blocks of land managed by Greater Wellington.

The areas are 1,500 ha in Kaitoke Regional Park’s western forest and 1,100 ha in the Akatarawa Saddle of Akatarawa Forest. These forests were last controlled in 2000, but possum numbers have built up again over time.

In 2003 Greater Wellington completed a successful possum control operation in the Hutt water collection area. “Since the operation, we have seen a great improvement in the health of the forest,” says Philippa Crisp, principal advisor of Parks and Forests. “Seedlings are now growing well and numbers of native birds, especially rifleman and tomtit, have increased.”

“Possum numbers were reduced from 23%RTC before possum control (twenty-three possums caught per 100 trap nights during monitoring) to 0.5%RTC percent after the control operation.”

There are large areas of lowland podocarp forest in Kaitoke West and the Akatarawa Saddle. These forests are important areas of biodiversity and recent monitoring has shown that possum numbers have reached an unacceptable level. Possums threaten our native forests, by damaging trees, shrubs and seedlings, as well as wildlife. They eat invertebrates and native birds’ eggs, and compete with native wildlife for food.

Aerial application has been chosen because of the terrain. Cereal bait containing 1080 poison will be applied by helicopter over the blocks. The operation will start in July as soon as a suitable window of weather occurs. A GPS satellite-based navigation system will ensure accurate delivery. The bait will be applied at a rate of 2kg per hectare, equivalent to one bait pellet per 33 metres square. Philippa Crisp says that all aspects of the operation will be approved by the Medical Officer of Health in advance.

“The operation will be managed throughout in accordance with his requirements to ensure there is no identifiable risk to the public.” A range of measures have being planned to minimise the possibility of people and domestic animals coming into contact with the dead possums that will result from the operation. Full details of these measures will be publicised closer to the beginning of the operation.

ENDS

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