The first of two baiting operations on Ulva Island has been completed as DOC moves to eradicate Norway rats threatening the Stewart Island wildlife sanctuary.
Ulva Island (263ha), located in Paterson Inlet, is a key eco-tourism destination for visitors to Stewart Island.
Ulva Island is one of a few ‘open sanctuary’ islands where the public are able to visit without a permit and its pristine forest and abundant wildlife draws more than 20,000 visitors a year.
Rats were detected again on the island earlier this year, prompting the local community to back DOC’s plans for a control operation using the rat poison brodifacoum to protect the islands unique character
“Ulva is an important wildlife sanctuary and a key drawcard for the Stewart Island tourism industry as well – we’re determined to ensure it remains that way.” said Mr Brent Beaven, DOC’s biodiversity manager on Stewart Island.
“This aerial operation gives us the best chance of getting rid of these rats before the breeding season starts for these threatened birds and before the rats can target the nests,” said Mr Beaven. “
The operation involves spreading rat poison using a GPS guided helicopter with a specialised spreading bucket to ensure an even application of rat bait across the island.
Stewart Island tourism operator Peter Tait said: “Ulva Island is a major drawcard for our guests, both national and international. We’ve seen what Ulva can be and it is important to preserve that.”
The University of Otago is monitoring bird populations before and after the drop to determine how the threatened bird populations are faring through the rat invasion and eradication.
The island was closed during the operation yesterday but is open again today after DOC staff have cleared bait from public walking tracks and beaches. Mr Beaven said visitors will be warned to avoid handling baits and to keep a close watch on children.
He said it is also very important that visitors continue to check all gear, to ensure they are not unwittingly transporting rats, mice or seeds to the island.