Date: 29 June 2009
Rangitoto and Motutapu islands are now open to the public again after the first successful phase of a three-stage rat baiting operation. The operation is part of a programme to restore the islands to provide a sanctuary for native wildlife in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park.
The Department of Conservation’s (DOC's) Auckland Area Manager, Brett Butland said near-perfect weather conditions mean the operation to rid these islands of rodents has 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.”
“This has been a great start in the plan to breathe life back into Rangitoto and Motutapu islands - creating a large pest-free nature sanctuary right on Auckland’s front doorstep.”
DOC is working with a wide range of groups - including the local farmer, bach owners, outdoor education groups and the Ports of Auckland - as part of the long-term plan to remove seven pest species from Rangitoto and Motutapu islands.
High use visitor areas including Rangitoto Island’s wharf and summit tracks, boardwalks and viewing platform have been swept to remove baits. However, Mr Butland cautions visitors to avoid contact with any baits or dead rodents they may find.
“As we are in the middle of the rodent eradication part of the restoration, visitors may still come across some baits, or perhaps dead rodents. If you find a dead rodent, that is a good sign, as it tell us the baits are working - and we are one step closer towards our goal of pest-free islands.”
Since the operation, DOC staff have found dead rodents, as well as a some dead pukeko on the island.
“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 aerial operation was the first of three rat bait drops planned for Rangitoto and Motutapu Islands. The next aerial application will occur in early July but the dates are weather dependant.
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 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.
Once Rangitoto and Motutapu islands had been cleared, there will be a need for visitors to the islands to be vigilant about keeping pests out and ensuring no four-legged stowaways could get ashore.
Visitors are asked to take the following simple steps:
- Checking boats, bags and equipment for stowaways before you leave the mainland.
- Check your 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.