Team effort helps native birds on Great Island

Goodnature_FenellaFenella, Production Manager

Throughout the year, we at Goodnature do our bit to monitor the success of our traps in a bunch of places around New Zealand. One of those places is Great Island, part of Fiordland National Park in the southwest corner of the South Island.

When our team first visited Great Island in 2017, it was easy to imagine how this iconic part of New Zealand once looked: lush and green from Fiordland’s regular rain, and rich in native birdlife. 

But in 2017, pests ruled the island. Great Island’s close proximity to the mainland, meant that it was constantly under threat of reinvasion from rats and stoats because they could swim the distance - to a place with limited predators and an endless supply of food. 

Goodnature_Trees

Despite the Department of Conservation’s (DOC’s) extensive efforts, the island was simply too remote to keep under control. Limited people-power made it difficult for DOC to check and refresh the wooden, single set traps they’d used for decades. It wasn’t able to be prioritised as the cost of set up didn’t stack up for the confidence in the likelihood of eradication. Great Island is close to the mainland, so alone, it seems a risk. But we knew that one step further was Chalky Island, one of the few places left with breeding Kakapo in the world. This little island turned out to be very important, acting as a buffer for the vulnerable Kakapo further afield.  In 2017, DOC’s pursuit of better results led Goodnature to take on the challenge of restoring Great Island to its original state. 

Fast forward to November 2019 when four of our Wellington-based team visited Great Island to check and refresh the network of our automatic resetting A24 traps. The combination of Goodnature traps and our regular monitoring effort is making a significant difference to the island’s biodiversity. With every trip our team makes, we notice more and more birdlife, and our bird survey results back this up. 

Goodnature_Helicopter

The network of 220 traps, set up across the entire island, needs to be refreshed every six months. In just over one day, our very own Jess from Marketing, Fenella from Production, Robbie our co-founder and National Predator Control officer, Darren Peters of DOC, checked and refreshed every A24 trap, one every four hectares, on the island. That’s a lot of traps and a lot of walking!

Monitoring the traps is an invaluable and rewarding way for our team to see first-hand the impact of our traps in one of New Zealand’s most stunning landscapes. Jess shares her excitement of her first monitoring adventure:

“It was so satisfying to see multiple pests under many of the traps we checked, and to step over rats and mice knowing that they’d died humanely in traps designed and produced by others in our team. Each trap has passed through the hands of our expert assemblers in Wellington and now I was seeing them, in the wild, helping our native birds thrive.” 

Visiting Great Island always reminds us that we can’t achieve great things on our own. We’re working with and against nature when it comes to trapping pests. With the mega mast of 2019 when the heavy seeding of forests produced a ‘bonanza of food’, rat numbers across the country boomed. But after every up there’s a down.

When we visited Great Island in November, the supply of food for rats was starting to slow.  With less food options available, rats have to work harder to survive so are more tempted by the chocolate lure in our A24 traps. The cycle of boom and bust makes our automatic resetting traps the ideal solution because they’re always ready to fire. 

Goodnature_Fenella/Rats

Expert trappers taking on a conservation project like Great Island are aware of the ebbs and flows typical of a pest’s breeding cycle. The same ups and downs apply to backyard trapping. There’ll be times when your trap is super busy, and times when it’s not. It’s as simple as that. 

For example, if you’ve got fruit trees laden with fruit, or if your street generates extra rubbish over Christmas and the Summer holidays, rats are spoilt for choice. But when their supply of food slows down, as it has on Great Island, rats will actively search out your trap for the tasty lure. 

Great Island is possum-free and its stoat population is almost nil. If our last visit to Great Island is anything to go by, our commitment to monitoring the island every six months will see the number of rats and mice continue to drop, returning balance to our native species.

Of course there is always the threat that stoats will reinvade a remote island or that rats will be attracted to your backyard, but with the constant control of our automatic resetting traps, the number of pests will stay low enough for our native birdlife to thrive. 

Check out some of our pictures from the trip!

Goodnature_MountainIncredible snowy ranges surround the flight in.

 Someone forgot to pack the chilled food...we got creative with our cooking

A huge snowdrop occurred the week we flew in - making the trip a little interesting!

Goodnature_TrapFenella checks and resets a trap