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New Zealand's biggest urban eradication begins

New Zealand's biggest urban eradication begins today [Monday July 8]

The country’s biggest urban predator eradication operation begins today as the Predator Free Wellington team begin installing 6,000 traps and bait stations in backyards across the Miramar Peninsula.

Predator Free Wellington is a 10 year project aiming to make Wellington free of rats, possums and mustelids. The first stage of the eradication project is focused on the Miramar Peninsula.

James Willcocks, Predator Free Wellington’s Project Director said: “It is the first time an urban eradication has ever been done at this scale, it’s definitely the biggest urban predator eradication the country has ever seen.

“There are about 20,000 people living on the peninsula and our team has spent the first part of this year speaking with them. Incredibly we now have almost 3,000 households and businesses hosting a bait station or trap on their property,” said James.

Wade Hammond of Strathmore is one of the residents who has agreed to help. As a regular trapper in his backyard and local reserves, Wade said the birdlife on the peninsula has exploded recently, we’re noticing heaps of tui, kereru around, even korimako (bellbird). “It’s amazing to think we’ll be rat free by the end of this year,” Wade said.

“Having such a huge amount of support from the community effectively means we now have a team of thousands, and it means we can achieve zero predators relatively quickly,” James said.

“By the end of this year, 20 December, we hope to have a Christmas present for Wellington – a peninsula with zero rats, stoats, weasels and possums.

“Achieving our goal of zero so quickly is only possible because we’re not starting from scratch, we’re basically here to finish the job. The peninsula is already possum free, this is thanks to the great work done back in 2003 by Greater Wellington Regional Council and Wellington City Council.

“We’re also building on the work of Predator Free Miramar community trappers who have been trapping on the peninsula for the last two years and have made a huge dent in the rat population, catching almost 5,000 rats to date,” James said.

Dan Henry is leading the community group Predator Free Miramar. Dan said our community is really excited about this project.

“People are sharing pictures of karearea and ruru in their gardens, and requests for our backyard traps have gone through the roof in recent weeks as people scramble to get involved,” said Dan.

“In a year where the rest of the country is seeing record high rat numbers, Wellingtonians are working together to create the world’s first predator free capital city,” said James.

“We are working on a complete eradication model, which will make Wellington safe for our native wildlife, and it starts with backyard trappers. Every trapper, every resident, can help create this world first for Wellington, a capital city where our native wildlife can thrive, and will ensure seeing kākā, tui and kākāriki in our backyards is normal.”

“Once we reach zero rats, stoats and weasels on the peninsula, we can take what we’ve learnt and look to spread the success formula into Island Bay and then the central city, and in successive waves north to Porirua,” James said.

Predator Free Wellington is a 10 year project supported by NEXT Foundation, Wellington City Council, Greater Wellington Regional Council, Taranaki Whānui and Predator Free 2050 Ltd.

Additional facts and figures:

- Predator Free Wellington has trapping groups across 44 Wellington suburbs. These groups have caught more than 60,000 predators and this is just the beginning.

- Predator Free Wellington is working with ZIP (Zero Invasive Predators) to build a virtual barrier by the airport to stop rats, possums and mustelids getting back onto the peninsula. We hope to be installing this in October this year.

- The success of the Miramar Peninsula possum eradication, led by Greater Wellington Regional Council and Wellington City Council, had a positive and long-lasting effect on the local ecosystem. Before the possum eradication in 2003, Tui were rarely seen on the peninsula – in fact the numbers went from 1 sighting in 2000 up to 144 sightings in 2006.

- A Wellington City Council survey of residents this year showed that 92% of Wellingtonians support a predator free Wellington, this is significantly more than 84% when we last surveyed in 2017. The survey also shown Wellingtonians are increasingly involved in hands on restoration work and 70% of survey respondents are actively involved in controlling predators in their backyards or in reserves, or have done some predator control work in the past.

- Wellington is one of six projects Predator Free 2050 Limited is funding and co-ordinating. Taranaki, Hawke’s Bay, Wellington, Waiheke, Dunedin and South Westland. Each has an area to remove predators from and protect from reinvasion, some are targeting possums, some stoats and Wellington is the first to remove rats from a complete suburb. In total 50,000 ha are targeted for eradication. This is proving the predator free game is indeed possible on mainland NZ and transforms the outlook for wildlife.

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