New Zealand leads the world in eradicating island pests, study finds | New Zealand
New Zealand’s relentless pest war has earned it the world’s top spot for eradicating island pests, but researchers warn the pace of eradication is slowing.
An international study, published in Scientific Reports, found that New Zealand leads the world in creating island sanctuaries and is responsible for nearly a quarter of island pest eradications worldwide. Australia ranks second with just over 12% of global eradications.
“The reason New Zealand can lead the world is because we support [pest eradication] at all levels, from grassroots to government,” said Professor James Russell, New Zealand co-author of the study from the University of Auckland.
The country has a well-established history of eliminating pests from the islands. The fruits of these efforts have been many – from thriving native bird populations to the creation of ecotourism destinations that further spark community interest in species protection.
It has also committed to an ambitious national program – Predator Free 2050 – which aims to eradicate stoats, rats and opossums from 26 million hectares (64 million acres) of mainland, as well as all islands. offshore, by 2050.
Islands are hotspots for biodiversity and extinction, representing only 5% of Earth’s land area, but experiencing 61% of extinctions since the 1500s and home to 40% of today’s highly threatened vertebrates.
Examination of 1,550 eradications on nearly 1,000 islands since 1872 found an 88% success rate using methods such as hunting, trapping and targeted poisoning to help restore island biodiversity. Complete removal of invasive species from islands has proven to be one of the most effective tools to stop and reverse this damage, according to the study.
Last month, New Zealand conservationists announced they would attempt the biggest-ever eradication of invasive species on an inhabited island. The project aims to eliminate predators including opossums, rats, feral cats and hedgehogs from Rakiura/Stewart Island – the country’s third largest island – over the next four years.
But Russell said it’s encouraging the efforts are also being aided by people setting traps in their own backyards. “Now the database shows that anyone doing things in their backyard is making a huge difference internationally,” he said.
The country’s conservation technology and expertise had become something of an export industry for New Zealand, Russell said, and it was something to be proud of. “We don’t make a lot of money exporting it, but we make the world a better place.”
The research may have given New Zealand’s pest control efforts a gold star, but it also showed that its eradication efforts were stalling. This is partly because conservationists advance on smaller islands and leave islands with larger landmass until the end, which means control efforts take longer to produce results. results.
But that doesn’t mean the country can become complacent, Russell said.
“It’s not enough to let nature hide in a corner and feel good that you’ve created a few islands. We should be very proud of that… but we should have [native birds such as] saddles, kākāpō and kōkako all over New Zealand.
“It seems patently unfair to me that they cannot be.”