DOC and OSPRI join forces to fight pests in Conservation Park

Date 21 October 2015

The Department of Conservation (DOC) and OSPRI have just completed a joint operation to battle pests in the Whirinaki Te Pua a Tane Conservation Park in the Central North Island. The primary aim of this work is to manage bovine tuberculosis (TB) and protect local indigenous wildlife.

Local DOC spokesperson Matt Cook says, ‘The Whirinaki Forest is a nationally significant piece of forest. The ecosystem and native fauna are at risk from pests including possums, mustelids and rats which is why our pest control work is so important. We know possums eat the forest canopy and prey on native birdlife, including eggs and chicks.’

Mr Cook says, ‘By partnering with OSPRI, DOC believes the biodiversity benefits of this operation will significantly add to existing pest management results in the region. Species such as whio, robins, kaka, kereru, bats and falcons will greatly benefit from reduced predator numbers.’
Local iwi were consulted during the planning for the operation to ensure local biodiversity programmes weren’t impacted by the joint OSPRI/DOC operation.

OSPRI’s Group Manager Matthew Hall says, ‘Our main goal is to manage and eventually eradicate bovine tuberculosis (TB) from New Zealand’s cattle and deer herds and wild animal populations. By joining forces with DOC we can achieve greater biodiversity gains and deliver more efficient pest control.’

Monitoring of the Whirinaki Forest showed that possum numbers had reached a level where control is needed to eradicate bovine TB. As a result further possum control was required to reduce their population and minimise the chance of possums maintaining the disease by spreading TB to each other. Aerial pest control of the area last took place in July 2010.

Possum control over many years has dramatically reduced the number of infected herds in New Zealand. Controlling TB prevents livestock production losses and helps protect the world-leading reputation of New Zealand’s deer, dairy and beef products.

Key details about the operation

  • The operation began with the distribution of non-toxic, tan-coloured cereal pellets by helicopter. This ‘pre-feed’ gives possums a taste for the pellets and overcomes bait shyness.
  • Toxic, green cereal pellets – each containing 0.15% biodegradable sodium fluoroacetate (also known as 1080) – was applied by helicopter at a rate of 1.0 kilograms per hectare in the DOC operation and 1.5kg per hectare in the OSPRI control area (that’s around 4-6 baits in an area the size of a tennis court).
  • Deer repellent was also used in one recreational hunting area identified by DOC to reduce deer by-kill (see factsheet at ospri.co.nz/factsheets).
  • As with all operations, the Whirinaki Te Pua a Tane operation was subject to strict safety, quality-assurance and monitoring requirements. Advanced GPS navigational equipment was used to ensure the pellets are accurately placed and identified exclusion zones are avoided.

For further information

Oliver Bates
Senior Communication Advisor
027 705 4995

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