High possum numbers in Waitutu Forest, Fiordland National Park are having a significant impact on the forest’s unique biodiversity.
Mistletoe, kaka, mohua and the overall health of the forest is being threatened by possums, and its protection is something Waitutu SILNA landowners are taking very seriously.
Waitutu Incorporation Chairman John Southerwood said future generations wouldn’t get to experience the beauty of the forest if key plant and bird species weren’t protected.
“At the Waitutu Lodge we do a lot of predator control so we’ve got 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,” Mr Southerwood said.
The Waitutu SILNA owners have been working closely with the Department of Conservation on ways to protect the distinct and nationally important forest from further predation.
“The covenant agreement over SILNA land requires the Crown to manage and protect the Waitutu Forest. The Crown has an obligation to do predator control and we’re holding them accountable,” Mr Southerwood said.
Department of Conservation ranger Colin Bishop said broad scale possum control is required to ensure that threatened species and the existing intact forest canopy is retained.
A possum control operation is planned for the Waitutu Forest in August 2010. The Department of Conservation is preparing to undertake an aerial 1080 operation in this area over 25,000ha, and expects significant benefits for the forest ecosystem.
“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 investment”.
Mr Southerwood said the importance of working as a team was essential in ensuring the success of any possum control programme.
“The landowners are in this with the Department of Conservation for the long haul,” said Mr Southerwood. “We see ownership of the land as part of the solution for the forest. We’re a team fighting against possum invasion.”