The Kepler Mountains in Fiordland National Park form a 12,000-ha peninsula between Lakes Te Anau and Manapouri. These natural boundaries limit pest invasion and are why the area contains bird life that has disappeared or is declining in many other mainland sites: mohua, kākā, kea, whio/blue duck, Fiordland tokoeka and ruru/morepork.
In 2010, endangered South Island long-tailed bats were detected in the Iris Burn valley, adding to its status as a special place. Rare native plants, vulnerable to possum browse such as scarlet, yellow and dwarf mistletoes have survived here too.
Easily accessed from the Te Anau township, the mountains are visited by thousands of people every year. A lot of those people are walking on the Kepler Track, a 60-km circuit and one of New Zealand's Great Walks.
The significant and threatened species in the Kepler Mountains are all vulnerable to rat and stoat predation and face severe declines in mast years in the absence of effective predator control.
Stoat control started in the Keplers in 2000 initially to protect mohua that were present in the Iris Burn Valley.
In 2006, the Kepler Challenge Trust supported the extension of the trapping network to cover the length of the Kepler Track with funds from their iconic annual mountain run. This was the beginning of The Kepler Backyard Birdsong Project a restoration project now led by the Fiordland Conservation Trust, sponsored by Kids Restore New Zealand (The Air NZ Environment Trust) and the Community Trust of Southland to help us to control pests in a 3,000 ha block of the Kepler.
The plants and animals in the Iris Burn valley also benefitted from aerial 1080 operations that were carried out in response to the 2014 and 2016 beech masts as part of Battle for our Birds.
Education super site
The healthy biodiversity and proximity to town has seen the Kepler Track evolve as a 'super site' for education. It's a place where kids can develop knowledge, values and skills to become the next generation of conservationists.