Trapping work in Fiordland National Park begins to pay off

Source: 1News

Many endangered species are starting to make a comeback in Fiordland, thanks to extensive trapping work.

Local company Pure Salt, in collaboration with the Department of Conservation, is working to restore Tamatea/Dusky Sound, on the remote Fiordland coast.

Trap networks have been established on multiple islands with the help of hundreds of volunteers and donations.

The project was started three years ago, and the first island of interest was Mamaku/Indian Island.

“We were told that it wasn't really trappable or possible, but we didn't know any better so we just started,” Pure Salt’s Maria Kuster said.

“Within eight months, we had the full network in place.”

There’s 700 Islands in Fiordland, New Zealand’s biggest National Park.

In the late 1800s, conservationist Richard Henry moved more than 500 kākāpō and kiwi from mainland Fiordland to some of the main islands in Tamatea/Dusky Sound in order to protect them from pests.

But this failed as many of the islands are vulnerable to re-invasion due to their close proximity to the mainland, meaning pests can swim there.

The Department of Conservation says when the project started, the rat population on Mamaku/Indian Island had exploded again.

DOC Fiordland biodiversity ranger Tony Preston said the rats, “were at around about 30 per cent tracking so in technical speak, that basically means there's a heap of rats on the island”.

But in three years, those numbers have decreased dramatically.

He said a recent check by Pure Salt on Mamaku Island found, “zero rats tracking, which is incredible”.

“It's great and it's amazing for the biodiversity on the island; the place is going to thrive now because of the work they're doing.”

A range of trapping techniques are being used, including tunnels and automatic baited traps and cameras.

Pure Salt’s Brad Lawson says the cameras collect vital data on animal behaviour by “learning where to put traps and the most effective places to put them”.

It’s also a way to monitor wildlife activity.

More kiwi are being detected, and other species such as penguins, kea and kererū are seen to be thriving too.

The project has now secured three years of funding through the Jobs for Nature programme to have three full-time workers on New Zealand’s seventh largest island, Tau Moana/Resolution Island.

“That’s going to change the game for us cause they're trying a whole lot of new techniques,” Preston said.

DOC hopes Tamatea / Dusky Sound will be one of the most intact ecosystems on Earth, and New Zealand's largest ‘bio bank’ - a source of endangered native species that can be sent to pest-free locations throughout the country.