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Forest & Bird honours Pestbusters

Forest & Bird honours Pestbusters

_Wellington – 5 June 2008

Forest & Bird media release for immediate use

Forest & Bird honours Pestbusters

They killed 400 rats, 64 possums, 47 hedgehogs, 43 goats, 22 stoats, 11 weasels, six feral cats, three magpies, two ferrets and one rabbit

To mark World Environment Day, Forest & Bird has made its inaugural Pestbuster Award for the most successful trapper of introduced predators and pests that are threatening our native forests and birds.

The winner is Forest & Bird’s South Taranaki branch. In the past 12 months, members Bob Walkington and Rex Hartley and other volunteers have killed 400 rats, 64 possums, 47 hedgehogs, 43 goats, 22 stoats, 11 weasels, six feral cats, three magpies, two ferrets and one rabbit. They worked in two bush blocks near Eltham, each about 400 hectares.

Rex Hartley, of Eltham, spends up to six days a month trapping possums. He has done volunteer predator control since 1997. Bob Walkington, who lives near Patea, spends three days a month checking traps, which he’s done since 2003.

Both men have seen and heard increasing numbers of native birds, including toutouwai (North Island robins) and North Island brown kiwi, in the Collier and Totara bush blocks.

“Possum and rat numbers are nothing like they were in the blocks 15 to 20 years ago,” Bob Walkington says. “Native orchids have really come away, and the young native trees are doing well with fewer possums.”

Everyone is benefiting from the predator control. In the middle of the Collier block bush is a lodge, where school groups and the public stay.

‘‘Introduced pests, such as possums, goats and deer, are some of New Zealand’s worst carbon junkies because of the devastation they cause by consuming our native bush,” Forest & Bird Advocacy Manager Kevin Hackwell says. “Controlling these pests not only protects our native plants and animals, it also increases carbon storage from the atmosphere as plants that would otherwise be eaten continue to grow.

“We congratulate the South Taranaki branch for their elimination of such a wide range of pests. The Pestbuster Award gives credit to all our hard-working volunteers doing pest control to save native species.”

South Taranaki branch will receive the Golden Rat trophy at Forest & Bird’s annual meeting later this month.

Runner-up in the Pestbuster Awards is Auckland’s Ark in the Park, which trapped 78 stoats, 13 weasels and five ferrets in the past 12 months.


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