Date: 10 September 2013 Source: Forest Restoration Project
Just 36 hours after being set, the network of pest-specific, humane traps in dense native bush near Rotorua has trapped a staggering half a tonne (376) pests; a promising start for organisers and the Department of Conservation (DOC).
Project organiser James Fitzgerald of Rotorua Canopy Tours says that this is a mammoth result, and that confidence is high for realising the overall target of three tonnes across the week-long effort that coincides with Conservation Week (8 – 15 September).
Fitzgerald says that the 376 pests are predominantly made up of possums (95), rats (261), stoats (4) and mice (16) - species that all contribute to the devastating incidence of native bird deaths, which Landcare Research estimates at 26 million every year across New Zealand.
He believes that the high success rate has been a culmination of best practise methodology as well as the labour-intensive pre-feeding effort his teams undertook in the weeks leading up to Conservation Week across the 10 kilometre trapping network.
Shane O'Driscoll and Bradley Gibbons from Rotorua Canopy Tours
“Over the last four weeks we’ve pre-fed all the traps with a mixture of cinnamon, aniseed and peanut butter as a way to draw as many pests into the traps as possible. With the pests becoming increasingly familiar with the traps, we’ve been able to make a much bigger impact.”
He adds that the success of the project will also be amplified further by the time of year – removing such high volumes of pests just prior to breeding season (October – December) will give the new chicks a far better chance at growing to maturity and ultimately re-populating the dwindling numbers of native birds.
“This is part of a long-term vision we hold, to restore this amazing forest to a pre-human state. We’re working closely with DOC and have a five-year plan for maximising our combined efforts within the wider area of this native reserve,” adds Fitzgerald.
The Department of Conservation (DOC), who manage the 500 hectare reserve, has been providing technical support to the project and are working with Rotorua Canopy Tours assisting with its results monitoring programme.
Rob Griffiths, DOC’s Community Relations Ranger for the Rotorua Lakes Area, reiterates that the major problem contributing to declining bird populations in forests like this one is that the eggs and immature chicks are easy prey for predators such as stoats, rats and possums so if they aren’t provided a safe environment to mature, the flow on effects are devastating.
“We applaud this programme. This is a great example of a business working in partnership with DOC to achieve significant conservation gains in an area that all New Zealanders and international visitors can be proud of and enjoy.
“The scope of the company’s vision to control pests throughout the 500 hectare reserve is fantastic and we’re delighted to be working with James and his team on this significant conservation initiative,” says Griffiths.
To allow New Zealanders to directly get involved, Fitzgerald has set up a website where people and businesses can sponsor one of 525 traps that have been laid across the 10 kilometre trapping network and follow its individual success online. The money raised will help pay for the on-going eradication of predator species within the 500 hectare reserve over the next five years.
“It’s one way New Zealanders can make a real difference in protecting our native birdlife and increasing the survival rate of our endangered species. For a $200 donation, people will receive a trap in their name and they can follow its progress on its website. The response so far has been fantastic and we have received $7000 of donations since we sent the site live. We know of workplaces whose staff have been actively debating whether it should be a rat, stoat or possum trap the company should sponsor – this is priceless engagement around this important conservation issue.”
“When Captain James Cook arrived in New Zealand he could hear the incredible bird song of the native bird species from two miles offshore. That’s no longer the case. Our forests are eerily quiet and only five per cent of native chicks are making it to adulthood in areas where there is no pest control,” says Fitzgerald.
About Rotorua Canopy Tours
Rotorua Canopy Tours is a unique eco-tourism company that launched in 2012 and has hosted over 11,000 visitors in its first year of operation. Located within a Department of Conservation (DOC) reserve, 10 kilometres outside of Rotorua, it is New Zealand’s only native forest zipline canopy tour. Just over five per cent of the company’s revenue is redirected back into the conservation and restoration of the forest. TripAdvisor (the world's largest travel review website) has ranked Rotorua Canopy Tours as the number one activity out of 677 in the North Island and Rotorua.
Karen Clarkson, Forest Restoration Project: +64 7 572 1608 or +64 21 026 44574