Introduction

Pest control to protect Canterbury’s rare orange-fronted parakeet from a rat and stoat plague was successfully completed in Arthur’s Pass National Park yesterday.

Date:  03 December 2014

Pest control to protect Canterbury’s rare orange-fronted parakeet from a rat and stoat plague was successfully completed in Arthur’s Pass National Park yesterday. 

The Battle for our Birds aerial 1080 pest control operation covering 9,366 hectares in the Andrews and Hawdon valleys will protect orange-fronted parakeet/kākāriki, mōhua /yellowhead, great spotted kiwi, kea, kākā and whio/blue duck from rat and stoat predation. 

Abundant beech seed in these valleys has fuelled a rat and mice plague, and was set to cause an explosion in stoat numbers this summer. 

DOC Conservation Services Ranger Dean Turner said aerial pest control was critical with rats well above the threshold for damage to the nationally endangered parakeets. 

“A rat and stoat plague could spell the end of orange-fronted parakeets in Canterbury.  

“The last major beech seeding in 1999 and 2000 wiped out orange-fronted parakeet and mōhua in the North Hurunui and decimated numbers of both species in the other alpine valleys.” 

Orange-fronted parakeet on Maud Island. Photo: Jack Van Hal.
Orange-fronted parakeet

Since then, a combination of on-going trapping, and aerial 1080 in beech-seeding years, has seen the parakeet population stabilise. 

Pest control will also protect the mōhua population – recently boosted with the transfer of 58 birds from Fiordland to the Hawdon valley, backed by the Mohua Charitable Trust. 

“The new birds will be settling in and looking to nest and raise their young, so it’s important we protect them from rats and stoats at this time,” said Turner.  

The application of biodegradable 1080-laced cereal baits over the target area follows its treatment with non-toxic 'pre-feed' bait just over a week ago. 

The operation followed stringent safety procedures and buffer zones were in place around huts and significant waterways. 

Warning signs advising the public about the risks of the pesticide and poisoned carcasses are in place at all entrance points to the area.  

Get more information on DOC’s Battle for our Birds pest control response.

Background information

  • The last population of orange-fronted parakeet/kākāriki (estimated at less than 300) on mainland New Zealand is found in four Canterbury alpine valley’s – the  Andrews, Hawdon and Poulter valleys in Arthur’s Pass National Park and South Hurunui valley in Lake Sumner Forest Park. Mōhua/yellowhead, great spotted kiwi/roroa, kea, kākā, and whio/blue duck are also found in this area. 
  • Hole-nesting parakeet and mōhua are highly vulnerable to being preyed on by rats and stoats, and kiwi, kea, kākā and whio are all at risk from stoats. 
  • DOC has an intensive management programme in these valleys to protect orange-fronted parakeet with about 4,000 traps in the Hawdon, Poulter and South Hurunui valleys and aerial pest control to control predator plagues when necessary. 
  • Research during previous beech mast (seeding) events has shown aerial 1080 to be the most effective and efficient tool for quickly reducing predator numbers over large areas of difficult terrain. 
  • DOC will monitor the effects of the pest control operation in coming months including the knock-down of rats, mice and stoats, and the breeding success of kea and orange-fronted parakeet.           
  • The Canterbury operation is one of 25 confirmed Battle for our Birds operations using aerially-applied 1080 over a total of about 700,000 ha of conservation land, largely in South Island beech forests. Aerial pest control has been completed in more than 90 percent of the total area so far. 
  • The Mohua Charitable Trust is dedicated to South Island native bird conservation and has supported numerous projects working with DOC.

Contact

Fiona Oliphant, Media Advisor
Phone: +64 3 371 3743 or +64 27 470 1378

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