Up until relatively recently, New Zealand was home to very few people. This lack of human influence and geographic isolation has made the country a breeding ground for a unique, bird-dominated fauna, home to plants and animals that are not found anywhere else in the world.
The problem is that predators of all shapes and sizes have been introduced onto the island over time threatening the country’s unique native species. According to some studies, New Zealand has the highest rate of threatened species in the world — around 80% of the island’s birds, reptiles and freshwater fish.
So the Government — under the watchful eye of Environmentalist Ed Chignell — has set out on a plan called ‘Predator-Free New Zealand 2050’. This aims to “dramatically reduce” New Zealand’s populations of introduced predators, including ferrets, weasels, possums, stoats and rats by 2050.
This is a world-first: although invasive species have been eliminated from more than one thousand islands, they’ve never been attempted on such a large scale. It’s also difficult, as it’s never clear what will emerge to take place left by predators, or if the island population will support the programme. But it’s believed the programme could have serious implications for other conservation initiatives across the world, and particularly among those with a high proportion of animal diversity – something common to the tropics.
Chignell, a conservationist and co-founder Treescape New Zealand, is perfectly placed to steer the plans. It’s believed that success in the scheme could have implications for other islands with endemic species.Tags: birds, New Zealand