Introduction

Rangitoto and Motutapu islands are closed to the public for the second of three aerial rodent bait applications.

Date:  09 July 2009

The ambitious plan to restore Rangitoto and Motutapu islands by creating a predator-free sanctuary for native wildlife continues today with the second of three aerial rodent bait applications. This comes after a successful first drop on the islands less than three weeks ago.

Rangitoto and Motutapu will be closed from Thursday 9 July to Friday 17 July and open again to the public on Saturday 18 July.

The operation is part of a programme to restore the islands by removing seven species of introduced mammal pests and predators, which will provide a landmark 3,800 hectare sanctuary for native wildlife within the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park.

The Department of Conservation's Auckland Area Manager, Brett Butland says the near perfect weather conditions for the first drop meant the operation to rid these islands of rodents got off to an excellent start.

"We were able to complete the aerial and ground application of rat bait within a day and a half and we are confident the second operation will go smoothly. That means we only need to close the islands for nine days instead of the planned ten," said Mr Butland. "With only one further application of rodent bait to go, we're well on our way to breathing life back into Rangitoto and Motutapu, creating a large pest-free nature sanctuary right on Auckland's front doorstep."

DOC is working with a wide range of groups, including Motutapu Farms Ltd, Motutapu Restoration Trust, bach occupiers, Motutapu Outdoor Education Camp, local iwi, Auckland Regional Council and Ports of Auckland, as part of the long-term plan to remove the seven remaining pest species from Rangitoto and Motutapu islands.

Since the first operation, Department of Conservation staff have found dead rodents, as well as some dead pukeko on the islands.

"There is a big population of pukeko on Motutapu and we are expecting to lose a number of these birds. Previous rodent eradication operations have shown that the pukeko population bounces back very quickly, especially in the absence of predators such as rats and stoats," said Mr Butland.

The dates for the third and final aerial application are weather dependent, but DOC is seeking to complete it as soon as possible.  

ENDS

Background

Rangitoto and Motutapu will be closed for nine days from Thursday 9 July to Friday 17 July 2009 inclusive. The islands are scheduled to re-open to the public on Saturday 18th July.

A number of helicopters will operate simultaneously and use spreader buckets and GPS technology to drop the bait. This drop is the second of three separate applications lasting two days each. There will be a minimum of two weeks between applications and drops are weather dependent. The rodent baiting operation is taking place over the period from 15 June to 31 October 2009.

Both islands will be closed for nine days during each bait application to ensure public safety. The aerial operation will be supported by the hand laying of bait in buildings and in all covered structures.

Once Rangitoto and Motutapu have become pest-free, we will need everyone's help to keep them that way, by being vigilant about any rodent stowaways and reporting any sightings of pests or inappropriate behaviour on the islands.

Prevention is better than cure so we are asking visitors to reduce the risk of pests reinvading by taking the following simple steps:

  • checking your boat, bags and equipment for stowaways before you leave the mainland
  • checking you gear, especially footwear for seeds and soil
  • recreational boat owners should look for rodent and ant signs before departure and owners of large boats should keep traps or rodent bait on board
  • land only during the day - rodents are more active at night

In 1993, Tiritiri Matangi Island was cleared of pests using a similar operation and is now one of New Zealand's iconic nature sanctuaries. More recently, little spotted kiwi, shore skink and kakariki have been released on Motuihe Island, which has been kept pest-free since 2004.

The island restoration work by DOC is complemented by the huge amount of work done by local community groups such as the Motutapu Restoration Trust, who have planted in excess of 400,000 trees on Motutapu since 1994.

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