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Public's help needed to protect conservation areas

13 January 2003 Media Statement

Public's help needed to protect conservation areas


Conservation Minister Chris Carter today called on the public to help protect New Zealand's wildlife sanctuaries from threats of sabotage.

"Atleast three sanctuaries have been targetted in threats over the past few months. In addition to a claim that possums have been released on to Kapiti Island, DoC is also on alert in Southland after a threat to release stoats on to Codfish and Stewart Islands," Mr Carter said.

"Codfish and Stewart Islands are two of New Zealand's most important conservation sanctuaries. Stoats are killers and like possums on Kapiti, they could devastate these islands. Codfish in particular, is home to a significant population of kakapo, one of New Zealand's rarest birds," Mr Carter said.

"Southland Police received a letter making the threats in November. DoC has been on alert since then and Police have been investigating.

"I will be visiting Codfish on Friday and will review the situation. Unfortunately, the size of these islands makes them very difficult to police. DoC has staff on each of them but they cannot possibly cover all of the open coastline. The best defence for these sanctuaries is the eyes and ears of the public," Mr Carter said.

"A great many New Zealanders care deeply about preserving our plants and animals for future generations. Their help in drawing the attention of authorities to any suspicious behaviour in harbours or areas neighbouring conservation sanctuaries would be greatly appreciated," Mr Carter said.

"If any one has information they should contact their local police station or DoC office."

He said DoC had contigency plans prepared in each sanctuary for eradicating any pests that had been introduced and DoC staff were on alert.

"We are all hoping these threats are hoaxes, unfortunately the conseqences of not taking them seriously could be horrific.

"There have always been threats from disgruntled minorities in the hunting community about releasing game animals into conservation areas. In some cases they have done so. But threats to release known pests, such as stoats, is a nasty phenomenon that is arising with increasingly regularity," Mr Carter said.

"I imagine the vast bulk of the hunting community is appalled at these threats. I am also asking them to help identify the perpetrators."

ENDS


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