Introduction

Project Island Song celebrates its two-year milestone this month with pest-free islands at Ipipiri in the eastern Bay of Islands.

Project Island Song celebrates its two-year milestone this month with pest-free islands at Ipipiri in the eastern Bay of Islands. Eradication of rats, stoats and mice on Motuarohia, Moturua, Motukiekie, Urupukapuka, Waewaetorea, Poroporo and Okahu Islands was carried out by the DOC in partnership with Rawhiti hapu Patukeha, Ngati Kuta and the Guardians of the Bay of Islands in June 2009.

Rodent dogs, Neela and Cody, detected rats on Poroporo. The rats were trapped shortly afterwards. Photo: A Blanshard.
Rodent dogs, Neela and Cody, detected
rats on Poroporo. The rats were trapped
shortly afterwards

Adrian Walker (Programme Manager – Biodiversity Assets, DOC, Bay of Islands Area) is very pleased with progress to date. “We have managed to keep rats and mice off the islands after the eradication which we could not have done without the help of the community and island landowners. We recently found oi or grey-faced petrel on Urupukapuka Island and these birds now have a better chance of establishing breeding populations on the islands of the Bay now the predators are gone.”

Project Island Song monitors are also seeing many more weta and lizard tracks in the islands’ network of rat tracking tunnels  – a sign that the lack of rats is already having a positive effect on these populations.

According to Fleur Corbett (Chair, Guardians of the Bay of Islands), “A recent bird survey for the Guardians by CJ Ralph of Moturoa Island, compared numbers of bird species and individuals heard and seen before the eradication in 2009 and after in 2010. The survey shows a significant increase in the numbers of tui particularly in Otehei Bay, Urupukapuka Island. With increased planting of native nectar-bearing plants, these birds are likely to start calling the islands home rather than somewhere to just stop by briefly for a takeaway meal!”

Angela Newport (Biosecurity Ranger, DOC Bay of Islands Area), sounds a word of caution: “While the islands are currently pest-free, six rats, one mouse and one stoat have been caught between January and June this year at the southern end of Poroporo Island,  Otehei Bay on Urupukapuka, Moturua Island, and the main beach on Motuarohia/Roberton Island. Some of these rats are likely to have swum or may have arrived by boat”

“The department responded to the rodent track sightings and trapped animals by deploying extra traps and tracking tunnels, and carrying out regular checks of all beaches for prints. Our Bay of Islands rodent dogs, Neela and Cody have to sniff out rodents and we couldn’t do this work without them.”

“All rodents trapped on the islands are being sent to Auckland University for DNA analysis. These CSI-style procedures add to the department’s knowledge about how rodent s are getting to the islands whether by swimming or by boat. This information will help with pest control strategies on the mainland thus minimising the number of future incursions.”

According to Fleur, “The success to date of these pest-free islands is due to three factors – the comprehensive network of rat and stoat traps on the islands and the intensive checking regime by Te Rawhiti Enterprises (TREL) contractors, the public continuing to check for stowaways in their boats and gear before they leave the mainland, and the mainland buffer zone.”

“The eastern Bay of Islands’ mainland has its own pest-controlled buffer zone - Project Strip and Project Points. Project Strip is funded by the Eastern Bay of Islands Preservation Society and has 176 rat traps along 13.4 km of roadside from Dick’s Bay to Hauai at Rawhiti. Project Points (Omakiwi, Omarino and Kokinga) are serviced and funded by the local landowners, Orokawa by the Guardians. “

Established in support of Project Island Song, the mainland buffer zone not only reduces the chances of reinvasion of the islands of Ipipiri by stoats and rats, but also helps enhance local natural biodiversity. In just over a year locals have begun to see increased numbers of tui in the buffer zone area.

Fleur says, “Project Island Song is still just a toddler in island restoration terms and we have a long way to go – after all good things take time! We are all looking forward to the day when the birds that used to be in Ipipiri can be returned. The better we work together at keeping these islands rodent-free, the sooner that day will come. Everyone has a part to play.

The public can help by remembering to check any gear going out to the islands e.g. household effects, building supplies, camping gear, timber, etc. If you think you may have something that is high risk, call DOC for advice. “

The public can also get involved by sponsoring a rat trap (used in the mainland buffer zone), volunteering for the Guardian weeding and planting days on the islands or by joining the Guardians as a member.

But most important of all, STOP, CHECK (for stowaways before leaving the mainland) and then GO (and have fun!). Report any sign of pests by calling 0800DOC HOT (0800 362 468) (after hours), +64 9 407 0300 (office hours).

Contacts

For more information:

Pewhairangi / Bay of Islands Office
Phone:   +64 9 407 0300
Fax:   +64 4 471 1117
Email:   bayofislandsbooking@doc.govt.nz
Address:   34 Landing Road
Kerikeri 0230
Postal Address:   PO Box 128
Kerikeri 0245

Project Island Song: Fleur Corbett (Chair, phone +64 99 407 6866) or Adriana Rogowski (Project Co-ordinator, phone 027 290 2180) or go on-line www.projectislandsong.co.nz.

Landowners on the mainland can contact John Booth (Eastern Bay of Islands Preservation Society) boothy3@yahoo.co.nz about ways they can help protect the islands, as well as their own areas.

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