Home' Advocate Communications : Fiordland Advocate 14 August 2009 Contents LOCAL NEWS
Page 14 | 14 August, 2009
The Department of Conservation is
gearing up to respond to a rat plague due
to hit the Eglinton Valley in spring.
Every few years there is a sudden
increase in rat numbers in beech forests
as a result of an autumn of high beech
seed production, known a ‘mast’. This
winter, a mast event has been confirmed,
with monitoring showing rat numbers
rapidly increasing to a level expected to
result in a rat plague in spring and into
The Eglinton Valley is home to many
rare and threatened species, including
a remnant population of mohua
(yellowhead) and both long and short-
tailed bats (pekapeka). These species are
classified as ‘nationally endangered’ and
are particularly vulnerable to predation
from stoats and rats.
In a statement released this week DOC
says past experience has shown there is
a high chance of native species suffering
significant losses due to predation by rats,
potentially to the point of local extinction.
“A well known example of the dramatic
effect of a rat plague occurred in the
Eglinton Valley between 1999 and 2001
when a huge number of mohua were
wiped out. Where previously there was
hundreds of mohua, they were laid
waste by repeated rat attacks during the
rat plague until only a handful of birds
remained. During this same period of
high rat numbers, all mohua completely
disappeared from Mt Stokes near Nelson.
Until this time stoats were generally
considered the main threat to mohua,”
“Long term monitoring within the Eglinton
Valley has also shown that bat numbers
are significantly reduced by high levels
of predation in the years following beech
masts. Without rat control, bat numbers
have dropped by around 30 percent each
time there is a rat plague.”
Meetings were held with interested
parties during the past week and a
decision on what control method will be
used will be made next week. The options
are ground-based bait stations or aerial
drops of 1080 poison.
The work will be funded through Operation
Ark, a Government-funded project set up
in 2003 to respond to such threats to
important populations of key species.
Operation Ark project manager Gerard
Hill said a ground-based operation would
require a contractor to visit the area
repeatedly over several months and
would probably only cover about 1400ha.
For the same amount of money an aerial
drop would control more than 7000ha,
Control work would likely start next month.
Plan to tackle forecasted rat plague
A short-tailed bat in flight.
PHOTO: Department of Conservation
The Department of Conservation has
announced plans to drop 1080 poison over
25,000ha of the Waitutu Forest next year
in a bid to halt the spread of possums.
The move has the support of the Waitutu
SILNA (South Island Landless Natives Act)
land owners and the Waitutu Incorporation,
which says future generations won’t get to
experience the beauty of the forest if key
bird and plant species aren’t protected.
Waitutu Incorporation chairman John
Southerwood said a lot of predator control
work was done at Waitutu Lodge resulting
in “every type of bird you can think of”.
“When the sun comes up in the morning
there’s a beautiful dawn chorus. It’s a
sample of what it could be like for the
entire forest and something we want to
give our grandchildren,” he said.
Department of Conservation ranger Colin
Bishop said broad scale possum control
was needed to ensure that threatened
species and the existing intact forest
canopy was retained.
The Department of Conservation is
preparing to undertake an aerial 1080
operation in this area in August 2010 and
expects significant benefits for the forest
“Possums are changing the forest,” Mr
Bishop said. “It’s vital we protect this iconic
and unique ecosystem from the increasing
pressures of these introduced pests. There
has been a significant investment in this
area to date both by the government and
the people of New Zealand in securing
the protection of the SILNA land and the
wider Waitutu Forest. This possum control
operation goes some way to protecting that
Mr Southerwood said the importance
of working as a team was essential in
ensuring the success of any possum
“The landowners are in this with the
Department of Conservation for the
long haul,” Mr Southerwood said. “We
see ownership of the land as part of
the solution for the forest. We’re a team
fighting against possum invasion.”
DOC bodiversity programme manager
Jessyca Bernard said the whole control
operation in its proposed form was
likely to cost between $500,000 and
$600,000. The Nature Heritage Fund,
which previously invested more than $20
million in compensation to the SILNA
owners in order to protect the Southern
Waitutu through conservation covenants,
had pledged $500,000 for this operation
to provide a significant ecological buffer
area to the SILNA lands and protect that
earlier investment, she said. DOC would
meet the shortfall as well as committing
to an ongoing management regime in
the Waitutu after the initial proposed
programme of possum control.
Extensive consultation had been carried
out with landowners, deerstalkers
association branches and local
concessionaires, she said.
Any member of the public was able to
make a submission to the proposal when
a resource consent application was made
to Environment Southland. The application
would be publicly notified.
Introduced pets ruining forest
SILNA landowner Neville Frew, DOC ranger Colin Bishop, Waitutu Incorporation chairman John
Southerwood and SILNA landowner Graeme Metzger at the Waitutu Lodge.
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