New Zealand is embarking on a mission to eradicate introduced predators such as opossums, rats, stray cats and porcupines from an inhabited island over the next four years in what is believed to be the most comprehensive effort ever seen in the world.
Stray cats, opossums, rats and hedgehogs will be exterminated in New Zealand, independent’s Stuti Mishra reports
The island of Rakiura, popularly known as Stewart Island, is embarking on a predator-free mission as part of a $2,800,000 partnership between its own conservation group, Predator Free Rakiura, and the royal research institute Manaaki Whenua-Landcare Research.
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The densely forested hilly island is rich in flora and fauna but is under increasing threat from invasive species such as cats, rats and brush-tailed opossums.
Environmentalists said the eradication program would ensure the protection of the island’s vulnerable native species.
“Right now Rakiura is experiencing pōuri, sadness,” said Dean Whaanga, co-chair of Te Puka Rakiura Foundation, the foundation group for the predator-free Raikura.
While a visitor may see this beautiful treasure on the surface, its true meaning [power] and mauri [essence] will be understood when native species return to the numbers our ancestors saw.
In Māori legend, Rakiura is known as Te Punga o Te Waka a Māui, the anchor stone of Māui’s canoe (South Island) on which Māui pulled the big fish (North Island) out of the sea. It will now serve as a motif to anchor the country in the goal of ridding the entire land of predators.
The project follows intensive research to better understand how the pests reproduce and how best to control them.
“What we learn here will help pave the way for the whole country to become predator-free,” Manaaki Whenua-Landcare Research said in a statement.
New Zealand has presented similar plans in the past, including a national program to rid the country of predators by 2050, but a project of this size and complexity has never been attempted before.
Invasive predators such as rats and opossums, which are not native to New Zealand islands, kill millions of native birds each year and threaten many species, including the national symbol, the Kiwi, experts say.
According to government estimates, New Zealand has the world’s largest population of introduced mammals. This is costing the country billions of dollars every year.