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Recovery of Russell Forest begins

Forest & Bird says the results of an aerial 1080 operation in Northland’s Russell Forest show how effective the tool is in knocking down the predators that kill native wildlife and cause native forest collapse.

Department of Conservation figures show that following the September operation, rats in Russell Forest have dropped from around 76 percent to less than 1 percent. Possums were at 79 percent and are now at around 16 percent.

“This spring, native birds have finally been able to to nest in peace, and instead of rats and possums feasting on the flowers and leaves of native trees – native birds, insects and lizards have benefited instead,” says Forest & Bird’s Northland Conservation Advocate Dean Baigent-Mercer.

Mr Baigent-Mercer says only aerial 1080 could have achieved these dramatic results.

“Two helicopters worked together to scatter 1080 baits across 6,000 hectares of rugged Russell Forest. It took less than five hours. To cut tracks close enough to carry out effective pest control targeting rats, possums, stoats, weasels and feral cats would take years, especially since this forest has kauri dieback present.”

Forest & Bird has worked for years to highlight the collapse of Russell Forest, releasing drone footage in 2015 to show the extent of the damage.

“When we filmed Russell Forest from a helicopter just prior to the 1080 operation, the place was devastated, with tōtara, pohutukawa, northern rātā and pūriri dying on a large scale.”

“Because the forest is so damaged, with very low bird numbers, it will take some years to see an impressive recovery, but this is a significant start.”

Between 1979-93 wildlife surveys showed an 80 percent decline in kūkupa (kererū) numbers in Russell Forest.

“At the time of the operation, vandals drained 2000 litres of aviation fuel into the earth and attacked pest control equipment. Despite the sabotage attempt, the operation went really well and we can now see the successful results.”

Mr Baigent-Mercer says this was the largest pest control operation the forest has seen in decades. Some of the forest received aerial 1080 in 1995 but since then pest control work has been small in scale compared to the size of the forest.

“Tragically, most of Whangaroa Forest continues to collapse after the postponement of an aerial 1080 operation this year. All Northland native forests without comprehensive pest control have been collapsing for decades.”

Rākaumangamanga/Cape Brett, located in the Bay of Islands, was also included in the September 1080 operation and has achieved similarly successful results. Pre-operation monitoring showed 14 percent rats, 17 percent mice and 34.3 percent possums, compared to 0 percent rats, 0 percent mice and 4 percent possums following the spring aerial 1080 operation.


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