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Dogs search Marlborough Sounds islands for pests

24 November 2017

Conservation dogs search Marlborough Sounds islands for pests

A pest detection blitz by 12 conservation dogs and their handlers in the Marlborough Sounds last week found no predators on island sanctuaries, giving assurance the islands are safe for the endangered native species living there.

The dog teams searched 11 Department of Conservation-managed islands that are predator-free safe havens for rare and endangered species such as tuatara, orange-fronted parakeets/kakariki, mohua, giant weta and Hamilton’s and Maud Island frogs/pepeketua.

The pest detection sweep included a check of Kaipupu Wildlife Sanctuary near Picton for mustelids and cats with none found though indication of a cat was picked up outside its predator-proof fence.

The Conservation Dogs Programme, supported by partner Kiwibank, uses specially-trained dogs and their handlers to find protected species, for monitoring, health checks and translocations, or unwanted pests. Currently, approximately 45 dogs find native species and 35 dogs detect pests.

Sally Thomas, Conservation Dogs Programme Manager said the Marlborough Sounds’ pest detection blitz had given the conservation dog handlers a great opportunity to work together.

“The 13 dog handlers that attended were able to problem solve and share their experiences with each other, both on the job and in the evenings. Some had dogs still being trained.

“This collaboration and sharing of ideas and knowledge, enhances the important contribution of the Conservation Dogs Programme in restoring and protecting our nature.”

DOC Sounds Operations Manager David Hayes said stoats and mice had turned up on Marlborough Sounds predator-free islands in the past and conservation dogs provided a vital role in checking for predators.

“Predator-free islands have surveillance measures to detect pests such as traps and tracking tunnels but to be sure pests haven’t snuck onto islands and evaded detection, regular searches with conservation dogs are needed.

“We’re especially pleased no mice were found on Blumine Island after mouse footprints were tracked on the island in June. The mouse was caught in a trap and the increased measures we put in to find and catch mice, including pest detection dog searches, found no other mice.

“This latest search by the dog teams gives us reassurance it’s unlikely there are other mice on Blumine.

“We ask people visiting islands open to the public to help keep these sanctuaries pest-free”
Visitors to islands should check before going out on the water that boats, kayaks, all bags, containers, food and gear are clear of mice, rats, ants, spiders or other animals. All clothing, footwear and gear should be free of soil and plant material, including seeds and foliage.

Searches of Picton, Waikawa and Havelock marinas detected rodents which could stowaway on boats and be carried to island sanctuaries. DOC will discuss with Port Marlborough and community conservation groups working together to reduce rodents at the marinas.


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