The Department of Conservation (DOC) will be using three rodent detecting dogs to screen everyone heading to Rangitoto and Motutapu Islands tomorrow morning (Saturday March 26) for the Dual sports event in which competitors mountain bike or run across the islands on formed roads and tracks.
The rodent detecting teams will be led by DOC ranger Fin Buchanan and his dog Pai. Last week (Thursday March 17) they caught and killed a rat hiding in a van about to be ferried to Motuihe Island, a pest free sanctuary for endangered wildlife near Rangitoto and Motutapu.
“Catching and killing the rat means Motuihe remains free of a predator that could have wiped out endangered species on the island,” says DOC Auckland Area Manager, Brett Butland.
“It was great work by Fin and Pai and shows how vigilant we have to be in keeping rats and other predators off the pest free sanctuaries we’ve created in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park.”
Fin and Pai and two other rodent detecting teams will be in action on Saturday morning (March 26) screening around 2000 people heading to Rangitoto and Motutapu for The Dual.
“We’re screening everyone and everything being taken to the islands for The Dual because we’re on track to making Rangitoto and Motutapu officially free of rats and other pests,” says Fin Buchanan, who is in charge of biosecurity on the islands in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park.
DOC is on track to declaring Rangitoto and Motutapu pest free this winter. This will mean it’s officially free of Norway rats, ship rats, mice, rabbits, stoats, feral cats and hedgehogs. Removing these pests is the result of a major eradication programme DOC began on the islands in June 2009. Possums and wallabies were removed in the 1990s.
“We haven’t found any live rats or mice on Rangitoto or Motutapu since we began our pest eradication programme on the islands in June 2009,” says Fin Buchanan.
“We’ve achieved this by implementing for Rangitoto and Motutapu the same biosecurity measures we use to keep pests off all the islands we’ve cleared of pests in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park.”
“For instance I use Pai to screen the school groups that ferry across to Rangitoto every Monday and DOC screens all material transported to Rangitoto and Motutapu for pests.”
DOC’s biosecurity measures to protect pest free islands include having all equipment and material transported to the islands screened at the department’s quarantine depot at Devonport. All ferries and other commercial vessels berthing at the pest free islands have had a biosecurity clearance from DOC. All the islands cleared of pests are ringed by a tunnels designed to detect rodents.
“We’re determined to keep Rangitoto and Motutapu free of rodents as its on track to become the largest pest free sanctuary in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park,” says Brett Butland.
Clearing Rangitoto and Motutapu of pests enables the islands to become a 3842 hectare safe haven for endangered wildlife, like kiwi, takahe, and kaka, right in the heart of Auckland. It also protects native plant life including the world’s largest pohutukawa forest on Rangitoto.
The Dual organisers, Total Sport, who run the event for the Motutapu Restoration Trust, are expecting up to 1700 competitors on Saturday. Every competitor has received a biosecurity checklist from DOC. They’ve been asked to check their bikes, packs, bags, containers, footwear, food and camping gear for rodents, insects, seeds and soil to ensure they carry nothing onto Rangitoto and Motutapu that would compromise DOC’s pest eradication programme. Total Sport are washing and disinfecting 600 mountain bikes being ferried to the islands for the event.
Aaron Carter from Total Sport says the Motutapu Restoration Trust is the key benefactor of the profits from The Dual and expects it will receive around $40,000 from this year’s event. The trust has planted close to 500,000 native trees on the island in the last 10 years as part of its programme to restore the natural and cultural landscapes on the island.
Brett Butland says bellbirds and kakariki have returned to Rangitoto and Motutapu since rats and mice were removed. They’ve flown over from pest free Motuihe and Rakino islands.
“Bellbirds and kakariki are happily breeding on Rangitoto and Motutapu because we removed the rats and mice. We’ve even receiving reports of kakariki on the North Shore. Eventually bellbird and kakariki will fan out across Auckland,” says Brett Butland.
DOC is now looking at what threatened native birds it will move onto the Rangitoto and Motutapu once they are officially declared pest free. Takahe and saddleback/tieke are likely to be among the first species to be translocated to the islands.
“Having Rangitoto and Motutapu as a pest free sanctuary, just 30 minutes by ferry from downtown Auckland, will be fantastic for Aucklanders and for tourists,” says Brett Butland.
“Being able to enjoy our unique wildlife and plant life in the heart of our largest city will provide a real draw card for tourists and an accessible recreation area for Aucklanders.”
Around 35,000 people a year visit Tirtiri Matangi Island, 30km north of Auckland, to see endangered wildlife such as takahe, kaka, kokako, little spotted kiwi and tuatara. DOC cleared the island of pests and manages it in partnership with the Supporters of Tiritiri Matangi.
“The success of Tiritiri Matangi as a popular destination for tourists and locals shows the value of creating pest free sanctuaries in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park,” says Brett Butland.
“It also shows the value of DOC’s hard work in keeping these islands free of pests and ensuring we keep dogs off the islands.”
“The only way we will keep the Treasure Islands in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park free of pests is with public support.”
“Everyone moving around the Hauraki Gulf needs to ensure that they’re not transporting pests onto these safe havens for our endangered wildlife and plant species.” says Brett Butland.