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Million dollar conservation project restores Raoul

23 September 2004

Million dollar conservation project restores Raoul

Rats have been successfully eradicated from New Zealand’s most remote nature reserve on Raoul Island in the Kermadec group, Conservation Minister Chris Carter announced today.

Six months of intensive monitoring on the rugged 2941ha island, located 1000 km northeast of Auckland, has shown it is now free of rats after an ambitious $1m pest eradication project begun in July 2002.

"This is wonderful milestone in New Zealand conservation," Mr Carter said.

"The Kermadec Islands, of which Raoul is the largest, are a goldmine of unique wildlife. They are home to some 23 plant species and five bird species that are found nowhere else in the world.

"Up until recently life on Raoul was being decimated by feral cats and rats. The Kermadec hebe was thought to be down to a single plant, the Kermadec kakariki (parakeet) was evicted from the island completely, and seabirds, such as the black-winged petrel, had not nested there in decades," Mr Carter said.

"After New Zealand's investment in Raoul, rats are gone and we think we have eliminated all cats except for a single male. The Kermadec hebe is producing seedlings, the kakariki has returned to the island's forests, and several seabird species are again raising chicks on the island. Raoul is on its way back."

Mr Carter said the success of the Raoul programme was just one in a series of ground-breaking island restoration efforts.

Last year, the Department of Conservation successfully eradicated rats from Campbell Island in the Southern Ocean. A similar programme is underway on Little Barrier Island (Hauturu) in the Hauraki Gulf at present, and pest eradication programmes will shortly commence on Secretary and Resolution Islands off the coast of Fiordland, the largest ever attempted.

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The Kermadec Island Nature Reserve includes a string of small oceanic islands and rock stacks spread out over about 250km. It is uninhabited apart from a small team of DOC staff and volunteers stationed there to control weeds, take weather readings and monitor regional seismic activity.

Pest problems on Raoul began when Europeans settled there in the nineteenth century, bringing with them an array of plants and animals. Goats were eradicated in the 1980s and other domestic animals removed, leaving only rats and cats.


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