New Zealand hatches predator plan

Getting rid of non-native pests is possible and could even happen in the UK, say experts.

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Kiwi
Conservationists in New Zealand hope to protect native species, such as the kiwi, by introducing a new pest eradication scheme. © Lakeview_Images/iStock

 

Conservationists have welcomed a groundbreaking plan from New Zealand that aims to eliminate all non-native pests from the country by 2050.

Announcing the initiative, Prime Minister John Key said: “Our ambition is that, by 2050, every single part of New Zealand will be completely free of rats, stoats and possums in what is the most ambitious conservation project attempted anywhere in the world.”

Sir Rob Fenwick, chair of Predator Free New Zealand and a leading advocate for pest eradication, said the plan would allow a military-style response to the problem for the first time.

“It will drive a more strategic and comprehensive approach to a landscape-scale assault on predators,” he said.

While existing methods of control will be used, including poisoned bait and traps, it is hoped that the initiative will help drive the development of new forms of eradication.

Animals introduced by European and Polynesian settlers have proved to be catastrophic for New Zealand’s wildlife, which mainly evolved in a world without mammals, making them extremely vulnerable to new predators.

An estimated 25 million native birds are killed every year by introduced predators, including 20 kiwis every week.

British red-squirrel conservationist Dr Craig Shuttleworth believes a similar approach could help eliminate non-native pests such as grey squirrels and mink in the UK.

“Eliminating the grey squirrel would be entirely possible if we had the concerted commitment, but up to now there hasn’t been a proper joined-up policy in the UK,” he said.

Find out more: Predator Free New Zealand 2050

Read more news stories in BBC Wildlife Magazine

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