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Threats to conservation sanctuaries shocking

Threats to conservation sanctuaries shocking

Threats to assault some of New Zealand’s most valuable conservation sanctuaries were nothing short of eco-terrorism, Conservation Minister Chris Carter said today.

"I am shocked to learn that individuals or a group claim to have introduced 11 possums on to Kapiti Island, one of our most pristine and valuable conservation sites."

“Until now Kapiti Island has been free of introduced predators but only after years of work and considerable expense by taxpayers and community sponsors. It is unthinkable that someone or a group of people should place all of this at risk," Mr Carter said.

"New Zealand's plants and animals are unique in the world. We are robbing our children of their environmental heritage unless we look after our native species. Kapiti is one of the few sites in the national takahe recovery programme. It hosts significant populations of kiwi, stitchbirds, kokako, and native parakeets."

"Many of these birds are national icons. It is just gutless vandalism to put them at risk," Mr Carter said.

He said the Department of Conservation would be sweeping Kapiti Island with a predator dog to look for possums. Any pests that had been introduced would be found and eliminated. DoC staff responsible for other sanctuaries would be extra vigilant over the coming months.

“Because somebody has made this threat, the taxpayers of New Zealand are going to foot a bill for extra surveillance work on Kapiti Island,” Mr Carter said.

"It is evident that these threats have been made by a rogue element in the hunting community. The vast majority of hunters in New Zealand are honest law-abiding people who have supported the eradication of pests on island sanctuaries such as Kapiti. Unfortunately, they have been let down by this irresponsible minority."

Mr Carter urged anyone with information about the threats to contact the police.

Background about Kapiti Island: Kapiti Island lies about 5 km off the west coast of the southern North Island. It’s 10 km long and about 2 km wide, covering 1,965 hectares. The highest point, Tuteremoana, is 520 metres above sea level. Predator control programmes have focussed on removing cats, deer, goats, sheep, cattle, pigs, dogs, rats and possums. Kapiti Island is the summit of a submerged mountain range created by earthquakes 200 million years ago. At one time, moa and kakapo wandered the valley that lay between the mountains to the rest of the mainland. Several million years ago, most of this range was inundated by the rising sea level. It was, for a time, part of a land bridge that extended across what is now Cook Strait. The island is now one of New Zealand’s most important sites for bird recovery. For instance, the little spotted kiwi thrives on Kapiti Island but is now extinct on the mainland. Stitchbird, kokako, takahe, brown teal and saddlebacks have all been transferred to Kapiti since the 1980s. Earlier releases included two forms of brown kiwi and weka. Kereru, kaka, and tui can also be found on Kapiti.

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