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Possum Dogs In Māhia Sniffing Down To Zero

Whakatipu Māhia has been using innovative tools in their quest for zero possums – sniffer dogs.

Hawke’s Bay Regional Council Manager Catchment Services Campbell Leckie says this approach is another way the project is using innovation to reach its goal.

“We are incredibly proud of what we’ve already achieved in Māhia with the support of the community as one of the largest farmland possum eradication projects currently underway in New Zealand. This latest tool demonstrates how innovation is critical to the success of predator free,” says Mr Leckie. “Business as usual will not get us collectively to predator free”

Covering 14,600 hectares, Whakatipu Māhia focuses on possum eradication, controlling mustelids –weasels, stoats and ferrets – and feral cats, and research.

“First our team got possum numbers very, very low in certain areas, through a closely-monitored network of bait stations, motion sensitive cameras and wireless monitored traps. The team then brought in these ‘scat dogs’ to find any possum poo left in the area, to lead us to any remaining possums.”

The dogs used in this project have been through more than two years of training to become certified by the Department of Conservation and are based in Taranaki.

“We worked with the dogs and their handlers for three weeks, covering over 5,000 hectares. This is the first time we’ve used them and we’re stoked with the results. We’re now looking at re-deploying them across other parts of Māhia to find out whether possums are in certain areas or not.”

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“They are a really important tool in the predator-free fight, especially at the end of a project where you’re tying to confirm that there are no possums left.”

The dogs will be back in April to cover the remaining 9,000 hectares, to finish off the ‘hunt down’ phase. After this phase, there will be layers of predator devices (traps, cameras, and bait stations) in place to prevent possums getting from Hawke’s Bay past the neck of land onto Māhia Peninsula.

Whakatipu Māhia is one of three biodiversity restorations in the Predator Free Hawke’s Bay project. Working together, we are reducing pests one predator at a time and bringing native species back into the lives of Hawke’s Bay communities.

The Whakatipu Māhia project started in July 2018 and is part of a regional initiative called Predator Free Hawke’s Bay (PFHB). The vision of Whakatipu Māhia has been to build capability and capacity for iwi and community to lead the project. The PFHB team have been driving innovation, building capability and contributing to national understanding of conservation and restoration in proximity to farmland.

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