Feral Cat And Rat Eradication Project Underway
4 July 2002
Largest-Ever Combined Feral Cat And Rat Eradication Project Underway
New Zealand’s largest combined feral cat and rat eradication project has got underway on Raoul Island, 1000km northeast of Auckland, Conservation Minister Sandra Lee announced today.
Ms Lee said DOC had begun an aerial drop of poisoned baits for rats over the 2941ha island, and that will be followed later this month by the hand-laying of toxic baits along tracks and in coastal areas for feral cats.
"This $1m pest eradication project is also one of the biggest funded under the New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy," she said. “Removing the last predators from Raoul Island will free-up nearly 3000ha of habitat and allow threatened species on our most remote nature reserve to recover.
"This project will make the long-term survival much more certain for threatened birds such as the Kermadec storm petrel, white tern, masked booby, and the Kermadec kakariki. Most of these birds have been forced to live and breed on nearby small predator-free islets, but are expected to return to Raoul Island once the feral cats and rats have been eliminated.”
She said a specially-trained dog will comb the island for signs of cats before the 16-person DOC team leaves Raoul in October.
Ms Lee said it would be two years before the success of the operation can be determined, because any surviving rats will be difficult to detect in the rugged forests on the island.
“We are confident that with our experience of island eradications and the detailed planning that has gone into this operation, it will become a major success story for conservation in New Zealand.”
She said Raoul was the largest island in the Kermadec Island Nature Reserve – an internationally significant chain of oceanic islands formed by volcanic action.
Ms Lee said the isolation had given rise to unique biological communities. At least 23 plant species and five of the 35 bird species on the islands were found nowhere else in the world.
She said the pest problem originated from European settlement on Raoul Island in the nineteenth century.
They brought with them an array of animals and plants that remained after the people had departed. While goats were eradicated in the 1980s and other domestic animals removed, rats and feral cats have continued to decimate bird life on the island.
Raoul, like other Kermadec islands, is uninhabited apart from a small team of DOC staff and volunteers stationed there to undertake weed control work, take weather readings, and monitor regional seismic activity.