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Rats to be eradicated from Kermadec island

3 July 2006

Rats to be eradicated from Kermadec island

A major operation to rid a remote Kermadec island of rats was kicked off today by the Department of Conservation.

Eradicating kiore or Pacific rat from Macauley Island, 120 km south-west of Raoul Island, will allow threatened seabirds in New Zealand’s most isolated nature reserve to recover.

DOC Warkworth Area Manager Rolien Elliot said removing the last introduced animal predators from Macauley would greatly benefit threatened seabirds which breed on the island such as Kermadec little shearwater, grey ternlet and Kermadec storm petrel, as well as endemic plants such as the Kermadec nikau.

“This one-off pest operation will secure the future of many small seabirds that are vulnerable to rats and breed nowhere else.”

A successful survey of the endemic red-crowned parakeets (Kermadec kakariki) on the island to ensure their population was robust and a window of fine weather had enabled the helicopter bait drop to proceed, said Ms Elliot.

The operation follows the recent successful rat eradications on both Raoul (2002) and Little Barrier (Hauturu) (2004), where seabirds once suppressed by rats are now bouncing back.

Two poison bait drops by will be made over 300-hectare Macauley within a four-day period. As with the operations on Raoul and Little Barrier, a GPS guidance system will enable the baits to be spread accurately over the entire island. It will be two years before the success of the eradication can be determined.

Macauley is the second largest island in the Kermadec group – an internationally significant chain of oceanic islands of volcanic origins and never joined to the New Zealand mainland. This isolation has given rise to a unique array of subtropical and temperate plants and animals, many of which are found nowhere else in the world.

Macauley is the stronghold for Kermadec kakariki, a sub-species of the red crowned parakeet found in New Zealand.

ENDS

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