First knockdown of pests completed in the Kepler mountains
Project Update Work to return birdsong to the Kepler mountains is in full swing with the first knockdown of stoats and rats complete. Traps were set at the start of April and checked for the first time at the end of the month resulting in 48 stoats, 37 rats and 6 mice in the traps.
This first knockdown follows an intensive 8 months of work by Department of Conservation contractors cutting tracks across a 3000ha area of the Kepler. In March, Fiordland College students, Venture Scouts and local members of the community then placed the 472 stoat and rat traps at 100 metre intervals along these tracks. The traps were pre-baited with hens' eggs to draw in resident stoats to using the tunnels as a source of food. Two of the tunnels were filmed before the traps were set and show both stoats and rats investigating the tunnels.
“This first knockdown is a milestone to be celebrated, and is the result of several years hard work and planning behind the scenes” said Murray Willans, Chair of the Fiordland Conservation Trust. “This work has started just in time with high stoat and rat capture rates being recorded throughout Fiordland this summer as a result of heavy beech tree seeding”.
The existing trapping undertaken by the Kepler Challenge committee and their volunteers will act as a ‘ring fence’ around this work, with most of the pest control undertaken within the Kepler track area. Ruud Kleinpaste, of Kids Restore New Zealand says "if we are serious about restoring our New Zealand, we have to be serious about the control or - better still - extermination of introduced predators. There's no way our native fauna can thrive with these marauding carnivores sharing their habitat - This has to be the most inspiring project on the Planet!"
In the coming months intensive rat control, using additional traps and bait stations, will be set up in a targetted area covering 450ha from the Control Gates to Brod Bay. Some extra traps will also be set up for feral cats.
The aim of this project is to restore the Kepler area to its former state. The overall focus is to reduce the number of pests, in the lower 3,000ha of the Kepler and then eventually the entire Kepler peninsula. From here, the next step is to bring back some of the species which are currently close to extinction in the area.
"Imagine a 3000 hectare prime piece of habitat” says Ruud, “made safe for our birds, insects, lizards and bats. Imagine a brilliant reserve that happens to be one of Aotearoa's Great Walks. And now imagine that the driving force behind this remarkable restoration project is the next Generation of New Zealanders! I suppose that's what Kids Restore New Zealand is all about; it ticks all the boxes and serves as an inspiration for all of us, young and old."