Govt prepares for plague of rats and stoats

New Zealand’s forests are set to be the battleground for a war between introduced predators and the Department of Conservation.

Beech mast 2014 logo. A larger than usual flowering and seeding of beech trees – known as a mast year – is expected to boost the number of rats and stoats in New Zealand’s forests. The coming plague of predators has DOC preparing a counter assault in the form of increased pest control using agents such as 1080 poison.

Minister for the Environment Dr Nick Smith announced the new Battle for Our Birds programme this week, explaining the initiative will increase pest control in 35 forests to protect 12 native species, mainly using 1080. An additional 500,000 hectares will be treated in this mast year and DOC ongoing efforts are expected to increase by 50,000 hectare per year for the next five years.

“This problem is particularly urgent this year because we are facing a one in 10 to 15 year large beech mast that will drop about a million tonnes of seed in autumn.” Dr Smith said in a media release. “This flood of food will trigger a plague of an additional 30 million rats and tens of thousands of stoats. When the seeds germinate in spring, these starved predators will annihilate populations of our endangered birds.

The pest control aims to knock back rats and stoats in a effort to protect native birds such as the threatened Mohua and Kea, as well as native bats and snails.

You can read more about the Battle for Our Birds programme on the DOC website.

Coverage of the announcement includes:

TVNZ: ‘Battle of the Birds’ reignites 1080 debate
Press: More 1080 drops in ‘battle for birds’
NewstalkZB:  Massacre in our forests
Radio NZ: Big boost in 1080 v rats and stoats
NewstalkZB: Money for birds comes from staff cuts
3 News: New 1080 plan should be the new standard – Forest & Bird
Southland Times: Forests Targeted for More 1080 Drops
Yahoo! News: Environment watchdog praises government
Radio NZ Battle for birds to use 1080 poison drops
Otago Daily Times: More 1080 drops in ‘Battle for our Birds’
Marlborough Express: 1080 Drops To Increase in DOC ‘Battle For Birds’
New Zealand Herald: 1080 deployed to deal with 30 million more rats
Nelson Mail: Battle for our birds
MSN NZ News: Calls for more funding for pest programme
Wilderness Magazine: Don’t let’s repeat the mohua disaster, says DOC
Radio Rhema: 21 million to be spend on pest control