Date: 12 September 2016
The operation is one of five South Westland sites that are receiving treatment in the Battle for our Birds pest control programme that is taking place to protect native wildlife from rats and stoats.
The pest control at the Ōkārito 10,049 ha site is aimed at protecting populations of rowi kiwi, lowland kea, little blue penguin and other forest birds.
Monitoring has shown rising rat numbers in Ōkārito Forest due to heavy rimu seedfall providing more food. At this site, rodents increased between February and May from 18% to 68% of monitoring tunnels showing rat prints. With more rodents to feed on, stoat numbers then surge.
Ōkārito Forest is home to the critically endangered rowi kiwi. The pest control is necessary because in the presence of high numbers of rats and stoats, both eggs and chicks are at constant threat of being killed.
DOC has managed the rowi kiwi population in Ōkārito since 1995, when the population was estimated to be as low as 160 birds. Through predator control and egg retrieval and chick rearing (Operation Nest Egg) the number of rowi in the sanctuary has increased to an estimated 400 – 500 birds. Without interventions such as Operation Nest Egg and pest control, 95% of kiwi reared in the wild will be killed before they reach breeding age (4 years).
The Ōkārito operation is the third to take place in South Westland’s Battle for our Birds programme. The Abbey Rocks and Haast Arawhata operations were completed during August. Other operations to take place in South Westland will be the Haast True Left and the Landsborough.
The pest control begins with aerial application of non-toxic baits to encourage rats and possums to eat cereal baits, with toxic baits containing biodegradable 1080 aerially-applied some days later or during the next fine weather window.
Aerial 1080 predator control will target rats to knock down their numbers. Stoat numbers are reduced through their eating poisoned rodent carcasses.
Information on track and road closures in pest control areas can be obtained from Franz Josef and Fox Glacier DOC offices. Walking tracks will be temporarily closed within these areas while both prefeed and toxic operations are underway. Signs will be placed at entrances to operational areas informing of operations taking place.
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