An offshore island conservation project in Tamatea/Dusky Sound
Lying within Dusky Sound near its mouth, Indian Island/Mamaku is one of the fiord's special sites, cloaked in Maori history. Back in 1773 Captain Cook first sighted the indigenous people of Fiordland on Indian Island (hence the name) and Hodges famously painted the scene. Evidence of Maori settlement on this 168 ha low lying forested island is still visible today. Cook's naturalist on the Resolution wrote of "various notes of birds which resounded throughout the whole cove".
But it is no longer ‘alive’ as it once was prior to human settlement. It is missing the cheeky call of the saddleback, the noisy chatter of mohua, the haunting resonance of kokako and many other forgotten sounds unique to New Zealand forest.
So the challenge is to restore the 'resounding' notes of birds to this special site.
A very special project
– sponsored by Fiordland Ecology Holidays, Quatre Vent Foundation, Ultimate Hikes, the Willans, Lucy Bellerby, the Carrons, and others
It is not just its unique place in our history that gives this project significance. It is special also to the Trust and its particularly determined group of supporters, it being the first island pest eradication the Trust has undertaken.
- ridding the island of stoats
The work on Indian island began back in 1999 when DOC began dealing to the stoats, with a perimeter of stoat traps checked and re-baited six monthly to keep stoats from re-establishing on the Island. This regime proved successful. Targeting the deer began in 2003. With an increase in bird life becoming evident and with the work that was being done on Resolution, Pigeon and Anchor Islands, the next logical step was to eradicate the rats and mice on Indian.
- eradicating the rodents
The Trust along with the group of sponsors set up a contract with DOC to rid the island of the 'dirty rats'. In 2010, two aerial drops of rat poison were done on Indian and its stepping stone islands. Bait stations and traps were then placed to prevent re-invasion, all at a financial cost to the team of sponsors of $70,000, in addition to the very practical, hands-on voluntary work carried out by some of them.
Jenny Willans commented while working on the trap line in May 2011 that working on her project directly made it all real, worthwhile and to be recommended.
And it has worked. Thanks goes to Fiordland Ecology Holidays and an anonymous major offshore benefactor in their client network, to Ultimate Hikes, Ian and Jenny Willans, Lucy Bellerby and others - a real team effort.
Predator free at last!
- finally SUCCESS
It's official! The island is once again predator-free. Since the eradication, not a single mouse, rat or stoat has been captured in the traps.
Rachel Cockburn, Trust Manager, said "a huge thank you is owed especially to Ruth and Lance for adopting this project initially and having the faith we would reach the target. It is fantastic to finally be able to declare Indian Island pest-free, after years of work and the financial and practical involvement of a neat group of people who should all be justifiably proud of what has been accomplished."
- we will have to be vigilant
Reasonable and sound quarantine procedures in place for local industry in Fiordland and a number of strategically placed traps will help to mitigate rats and mice re-establishing on the island.
Murray Willans, Trust Chairman, acknowledges that like any island pest eradication, it will require ongoing surveillance but "it will also provide an opportunity to re-establish some of NZ's threatened species, as well as protecting the species that are already there."
Indian Island's place in the jigsaw
A bonus is that Indian Island becomes a vital piece of the section of the conservation jigsaw puzzle that is Tamatea/Dusky Sound, being another buffer for protecting Anchor Island (home again to kakapo). The Dusky Sound complex has been nationally identified by DOC as a key offshore islands eco-system ideal for trialling and refining its pest control techniques to create biodiversity refuges for local and mainland species on the six main islands, including:
- Resolution Island to the north (at 20,860 ha the largest in the fiord) with its distinctive Five Fingers Peninsula jutting out into the wild Tasman Sea (no rats or possums),
- Pigeon Island nestling into the western flanks of Resolution which was in the 1890s home to Richard Henry, NZ's first conservation ranger (no pests),
- Anchor (no pests), then Indian (now no pests), Long and Cooper Islands (no possums but still have the other pests), leading from the ocean eastwards into the head of Dusky Sound to the mainland's Supper Cove, the end of the Dusky Track.
The future now lies in one-off translocation projects to this historic island.
Help is needed for this stage and for furthering the work on the next jigsaw piece in the Dusky Sound complex, Long Island.
To read more of the Indian Island news go to Indian Island news archives
The Breaksea Girl - mainstay of Fiordland Ecology Holidays when they had their tourism business