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Year of the (dead) rat in Milford Sound

4 February 2008

Year of the (dead) rat in Milford Sound

Nature Guide Richard Heyward checking stoat traps in Milford Sound


An effective way to deal with predators is to taste terrible.

It may be the Chinese Year of the Rat, but 2008 is not looking positive for furry little rodents (and their stoat cousins) in Milford Sound.

Local tourism company Real Journeys has just installed 10 new traps in Milford Sound as part of an expansion of their ongoing predator-control programme in the area. The traps aim to protect rare Fiordland Crested Penguins and other birdlife from stoats and rats.

Fiordland Crested Penguins come to Milford Sound annually to nest and raise their chicks – and they are particularly vulnerable at this time.

“Right now, we have them here moulting,” Real Journeys nature guide Richard Heyward said. “But from late July through to late November, the penguins are raising their young, and at this stage the penguins – especially their chicks – are susceptible to predation.”

Known as Groucho Marx Penguins because of their distinctive bushy eyebrows, Fiordland Crested Penguins are one of the world’s rarest penguins. There are only about 2500 breeding pairs left.

The main known land predator of Fiordland Crested Penguins is stoats, which take both adults and chicks – particularly during the nesting period. Real Journeys maintains a line of stoat traps in Milford Sound, with additional traps close to nesting sites.

In total the company now has 24 traps in the area. Staff check the traps regularly to clear them and set new bait.

“The nests are pretty vulnerable and we want to do all we can to ensure the survival of this unique species in Milford Sound,” Mr Heyward says. “The great thing about this sort of trapping is that both staff and visitors get to really see the benefits – more birdlife in Milford Sound.”

Real Journeys is a locally owned and operated tourism operator providing both daytime and overnight cruises in Milford Sound


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