Conservation Minister Maggie Barry has just returned from a four-day trip to the Auckland Islands on the HMNZS Otago.
On the trip, Barry announced that the Department of Conservation (DOC) was celebrating a 14 per cent increase in sea lion pups this year, following years of declining births on the subantarctic Auckland Islands. She said 1,965 sea lion pups had been born this season, compared to 1,727 in 2016.
DOC scientists have been deploying several means to try to prevent pup deaths, including building ramps to stop the tiny pups falling into sinkholes in the boggy peat.
The department has also begun plans to eradicate 1000 pigs from the Auckland Islands, which have been there since they were introduced by sealers and whalers as a source of food. DOC southern South Island director Allan Munn said that hunting was expected to begin in about 14 months and would cost about $2 million per year, though he was unsure how long it would take to complete the mission.
The hunting efforts will be crucial to DOC’s plan to make all the subantarctic islands predator-free by 2025. There is also a population of feral cats on Auckland Island.
Several journalists joined the Minister on the voyage and reported on the trip:
Radio NZ: Conservation Minister heads to Auckland Islands
TVNZ: Maggie Barry rushes to catch expedition to sub Antarctic islands
Stuff.co.nz: Maggie Barry keen to see ‘mega herbs’ on trip to Auckland Islands
Radio NZ: Sub-antarctic islands offer glimpse of pest-free NZ
TVNZ: Nosy sea lion pups sneak up on Conservation Minister during TV interview about saving endangered species
Stuff.co.nz: Sea lion pups make a comeback
Radio NZ: New pups help boost dwindling sea lion population
TVNZ: NZ sea lions’ plight sees conservationists in desperate race to save rare breed
Stuff.co.nz: Predator-free subantarctic island gives glimpse of what NZ could be
Stuff.co.nz: Auckland Island pigs may be culled