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Suburban New Zealand is embracing the crusade to rid the country of rats, stoats, possums and their fellow destructive predators by 2050.
The government-led Predator Free 2050 goal is being taken up not only in forests and rural settlements, but also in a swelling number of urban communities across the country.
New Zealand has the highest rate of threatened native species in the world; 80 percent of our native bird species are classified as being “in trouble”, with around 20 species on the nationally critical list – including the black robin, white heron and kakapo.
DOC estimates that 25 million birds are killed each year by rats, stoats, possums, ferrets, weasels and feral cats, and it costs the country more than $70 million to manage these predators.
Predator Free New Zealand, an independent trust chaired by environmentalist Sir Rob Fenwick, is taking its own stand in the campaign to cut out all of the most damaging introduced predators. In partnership with Kiwibank, the trust is funding community groups throughout the country to buy traps and other tools for predator control.
So far 24 predator-free groups, from Russell in the Bay of Islands to Port Chalmers in Dunedin, have received grants.
One of the trust’s main targets has been trapping in urban environments – with the goal of setting a trap in every fifth backyard across New Zealand. It ties in neatly with the “Love Your Backyard” theme of this year’s Conservation Week (October 14-22).
Wellington has led the urban charge, and Predator Free NZ spokesperson Jessi Morgan believes there is not a suburb in the capital that isn’t covered by a predator free movement. Group numbers in Auckland’s city suburbs are also beginning to flourish. One of the most recent groups, Predator Free Grey Lynn, began by selling all of the traps it had at the Grey Lynn Market in August.
Predator Free NZ also has a focus on getting the next generation of pest trappers on board. During Conservation Week, it has launched a Kiwibank Predator Free Schools initiative, to give as many as 10 schools throughout the country up to $1000 towards starting a trapping programme.
Research shows the importance of getting kids, especially between the ages of 6 and 12, involved in the environment – so that it shapes their attitudes and behaviour towards the environment for life.
Patumahoe School in rural south Auckland is already heavily involved in the Predator Free Patumahoe movement. Through the encouragement of Andrew Sinclair, the school’s pupils have learned how to lay traps, built wooden trap boxes to prevent bird and pet captures, and are carrying out regular bird counts in stands of bush around the school.
Since trapping began in the area, the counts have shown a marked increase in birdlife, particularly in kereru numbers.
*Watch the full interview with Predator Free NZ spokesperson Jessi Morgan in the video player below*
*Kiwibank, a partner of the Predator Free NZ Trust, is also is a Foundation Supporter of Newsroom.