Archived content: This media release was accurate on the date of publication. 


A full-scale response has been launched after a potential rat dropping was found on the predator free island.

Date:  07 December 2017

The Department of Conservation has launched a response plan following the discovery of a potential rat dropping on Whenua Hou/Codfish Island.

Rat scat on ground.
Rat scat
Image: Johannes Fischer ©

Whenua Hou is a predator free island nature reserve and the home of the Kākāpō Recovery Programme.

The faeces, measuring about 2.8 cm in length, is suspected to be from a Norway rat however DNA analysis is required to confirm this.

It was found by a researcher studying South Georgian diving petrels on Sealers Bay beach and reported to DOC yesterday morning.

Due to the potential significance, DOC is launching a full-scale incursion response. A team equipped with tracking tunnels, camera monitoring gear and traps has been deployed to the island today.

DOC Murihiku operations manager and response leader Tony Preston says while it has not been definitively identified as a rat dropping there is sufficient evidence for the team to act now.

“Whenua Hou is one of the most important sites for biodiversity recovery in New Zealand and any evidence of an incursion is treated very seriously. It only takes one pregnant rat to wreak havoc on a pristine ecosystem.

“Because of this we’re taking a better safe than sorry approach and doing everything we can to identify, isolate and exterminate any unwelcome arrival.”

Kākāpō operations manager Deidre Vercoe says that while a rat shouldn’t pose any risk to an adult kākāpō, eggs and chicks would be vulnerable.  However, the critically endangered parrots were not expected to breed on Whenua Hou this summer, with the next breeding expected to be in early 2019.

Whenua Hou is located 3 km from the coast of Rakiura/Stewart Island. It has been predator free since 1998. As a nature reserve it has the highest protection available in New Zealand and entry can only be gained by permit with strict quarantine rules in place.


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