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Operation Ark provides emergency funding for Dart

Operation Ark provides emergency funding for Dart

Conservation Minister Chris Carter today announced emergency funding for the Otago Conservancy of the Department of Conservation to tackle a sudden explosion in rat numbers in the Dart Valley near Queenstown.

"These rats have appeared unexpectedly and in large numbers. They could have devastating consequences for the endangered mohua (yellowhead) which live in the Dart Valley," Mr Carter said.

"In 2003, I developed an emergency response initative called Operation Ark to protect 11 key areas of South Island beech forest, and the species that live in them, from rat and stoat irruptions. The Dart Valley was one of the 11 areas identified and the funding I am announcing today comes from the Operation Ark initiative.

"A total of $120,000 has been made available to the Otago Conservancy so they can take immediate action to deal with this problem," Mr Carter said.

"DOC's experts will decide how they use this money, but I would expect they will be rapidly rolling out a network of poisoned bait stations for rats in the valley to complement the existing 85km of stoat trap lines.

"Rat explosions are happening with worrying frequency, and are thought to have halved the numbers of mohua and orange fronted kakariki in our beech forests," Mr Carter said.

"Operation Ark is specifically designed to prevent this situation getting any worse. It allows DOC to respond quickly to the unexpected, and that is a crucial advantage when dealing with nature.

"Operation Ark was triggered last year in the Hawdon Valley in Canterbury, and successfully knocked back an impending rat explosion in November. My hope is the initiative will have the same effect in the Dart," Mr Carter said.

Editor's Note Operation Ark is an a rapid response initiative designed to blunt the impact of sudden rat and stoat irruptions. It is being gradually introduced over time as funding becomes available.

It involves the progressive expansion of possum control and tens of thousands of stoat and rat-traps in permanent trap lines throughout eleven Ark areas. Once this infrastructure is in place, special monitoring will take place in each of the Ark areas to identify when a rat or stoat irruption might be about to occur. At that point, additional heavy-duty predator control will swing into place, including the possible use of 1080 and other toxins.

The Ark areas have been selected by a team of Department of Conservation (DOC) experts and span 145,500 hectares throughout the South Island. They include four of the best sites for populations of mohua (yellowhead) and whio (blue duck), sites containing the last two populations of short-tailed peka peka (bat), as well as the key sites for orange fronted kakariki.

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