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Monitoring Reveals Possum Reduction At Pirongia

 

Diverse native wildlife on Mount Pirongia can flourish this summer, thanks to a successful pest control operation, says the Department of Conservation (DOC).

As part of DOC’s ongoing nationwide Tiakina Ngā Manu programme, predator control was carried out at Pirongia Forest Park in September 2020, using aerially applied 1080 over 14,000 hectares.

The work is part of long-term conservation efforts at the site, which is an important home to a huge range of forest birds, insects, lizards and plants including, threatened species such as pekapeka (bats), kōkako and Dactylanthus—a rare parasitic plant.

“Possum monitoring, before and after the control operation shows we’ve reduced the possums in the forest park, providing rata trees, Dactylanthus, kokakō and a multitude of other valuable New Zealand species the opportunity to thrive,” says DOC Biodiversity Ranger Cara Hansen.

Possum monitoring was undertaken by an independent contractor using leg hold traps spread throughout the forest park in the weeks after the Tiakina Ngā Manu operation was completed; 240 traps were checked over three nights and no possums were caught.

Monitoring at the same site, undertaken in January 2020, showed 5.4% of the traps had caught possums.

“This further demonstrates the value of our predator control operation and the detailed and lengthy planning and consultation we put into undertaking that work,” Cara Hansen says.

“The removal of possums — and other predators such as stoats and rats — at Pirongia means the many forest bird species found there will be able to successfully raise clutches of chicks. Controlling predators also allows the forest canopy to recover, improving the forest’s health and providing important habitat for native species.”

Over the last 25 years, DOC and a range of government and community organisations have undertaken extensive predator control and species protection efforts within and around Pirongia Forest Park.

Monitoring at Pirongia over the past 20 years shows a downward trend of possum numbers and, through ongoing predator control work, there is an opportunity to maintain the benefits of keeping possum numbers down.

Tiakina Ngā Manu contributes to Predator Free 2050 through the sustained control of introduced predators over large areas of conservation land to protect taonga native species and forests until predators can be removed permanently.

“We are now lucky to hear the calls of the hauntingly beautiful songbird kōkako across the maunga, which have been successfully reintroduced by Pirongia Te Araroa o Kahu Restoration,” she says.

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