Massive Kepler milestone

Submitted by editor on

10 April 2015

Another massive milestone in the Kepler Mountains

Work to return birdsong and protect fragile forest ecosystems in the Kepler Mountains near Te Anau, home to one of New Zealand’s iconic Great Walks, the Kepler is in full swing and well on its way.

Stage 1 of the Kepler Backyard Birdsong restoration project was set up in 2010, comprising 3000ha, led by the Fiordland Conservation Trust and named Kids Restore the Kepler, a community initiative with a twist: the driving force behind this remarkable restoration and education project is the next generation of New Zealanders, kids.

The Kids Restore the Kepler project has earned the reputation of being the best practice model for community conservation education and it’s a reputation that has been hard earned and well deserved.  Every knockdown of predators has been a milestone to be celebrated and applauded, the result of planning behind the scenes and 5 years hard work by the Trust, DOC, the kids, schools, learning centres and community.

Kids Restore the Kepler self-setting trapThe latest milestone involves the use of 467 self-setting traps in 200ha at Harts Hill in the Kids Restore the Kepler area. The A24 project run in conjunction with DOC began in October last year when Goodnature A24 traps containing chocolate-based lures were set up by DOC staff and volunteers. In September, rats were monitored at plague proportions of 72% before the project began, which was due to beech masting.  Less than 3 months later DOC monitored rats at 0% while in a nearby control area, they remained at 70%. Local Fiordland College student, Tim Barrow helped DOC Biodiversity Ranger Sam Gibson to maintain the traps over the school holidays. Nearly 6 months on from set-up, rats are still at undetectable levels and remain controlled at those levels.

DOC predator control expert Darren Peters leading the project says, “This is great news. Self-setting traps are a key tool for pest control because they are humane, non toxic and reduce labour costs allowing conservationists to cover even larger areas. They have the potential to slash conventional trap costs by up to 75 percent."

In the coming months DOC will increase self setting rat control in the Kids Restore the Kepler setting up additional traps in a targeted area covering a further 400ha at Harts Hill.

Chairman of the Fiordland Conservation Trust, Murray Willans said, “The self-setting technology certainly looks promising, and has the potential to be another valuable tool for conservation efforts. Keeping pests at low numbers all the time is critical to increasing our native species population and to bringing back the birdsong to the Kepler, to have them remain at zero density is even better.”