New Zealand has one of the world’s worst records for species extinctions. Humans have done their bit with hunting and habitat destructions, but introduced predators are the major ongoing threat.
The sheer number of pest animals across New Zealand is a major threat to our native biodiversity. One (probably very conservative) study estimated 25 million native birds are killed each year by introduced predators. In line with the aspirations of Predator Free 2050 and Pest Free Auckland 2050, Urban Ark - Manawa Taiao is striving towards a New Zealand free from rats, possums and stoats, though we are also looking to reduce numbers of hedgehogs and wasps.
Why Predator Free?
Predator-free is primarily about conservation, native birds in the garden and feeling connected to nature. If you live in Auckland’s inner west. you’ve most likely got a rat within 50 metres of where you are. As Jesse Mulligan puts it “Every night when you close the backdoor and retreat inside, big rats wander over your lawn and eat whatever seeds, insects and birds they come across. They climb fences and trees, dive into ponds and burrow into woodpiles, devouring any protein they can find.”
What’s more, rodents chewing through electrical wires are believed to cause eight percent of house fires, and rats have even been known to chew through dishwasher and washing machine hoses causing house flooding.
The Predator-free movement also builds communities. Folk working together for a common goal can’t help but feel united and part of something. Conservation can be a starting point for a conversation, and a way to turn strangers into neighbours. An entire community, connected and rallying around a common goal? We reckon that’s a good thing.
Over the last few years, the efforts of Predator-free Wellington have seen native birdlife thrive around Wellington, where Zealandia proved a mother lode of native species to populate the inner city. Auckland’s opportunity lies in the numerous predator-free Hauraki Gulf islands and the bushy enclaves of the Waitākere and Hunua ranges. If we can greatly reduce the number of rats, possums and stoats, the birds (and a lot else besides) can thrive.
4 tips for predator control
Trap Smarter, Not Harder If you decide to trap, learn about ‘pulsing’. Putting your traps out for two or three weeks at a time only four times a year is less onerous, and you will be more effective as animals don’t become trap/bait shy. It gets much better if you work in with neighbours as together you knock down the local rat population – connect with an existing community programme or start your own.
Know what you’ve got To identify what pests you have, check out Pest Detective, where droppings, tracks, vegetation damage, bite marks, smell and traces of fur, hair or feathers can help you work out what you’ve got.
Your backyard = Your pests You are responsible for controlling pests in your backyard. If you live on a suburban section you’ll probably only need to target rats. For heaps of info on backyard trapping visit www.predatorfreenz.org/backyard-trapping
Trap with care Introduced predators don’t belong here – but it is important to remove them in a humane way that avoids or minimises pain, suffering of distress – both to target and non-target animals.
The future is bright
Sometimes trapping can be a thankless task and when you see footage of rats climbing all over your carefully tended traps it is easy to get despondent. Certainly, getting traps into back gardens is still a great way of significantly reducing predator numbers, particularly rats, but there is hope on the horizon with new technology.