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  • Writer's pictureForest Lifeforce

Rats and mice eliminated from 400ha of Hawke’s Bay wilderness

Efforts to eliminate rodents across a 400 hectare swathe of bushland in inland Hawke’s Bay are proving successful. The Forest Lifeforce Restoration Trust has seen rat tracking figures in its new sanctuary bordering the Te Hoe River plunge from an estimated 94 percent in September 2015 to zero percent in 2016.

Results of five-minute bird counts conducted in October this year showed…

Bait stations in the Trust’s new Te Hoe Inner Sanctuary were laced in September last year with 600 grams of Pindone, 50 grams of Ratabait (Diphacenone) and one Ferratox. This was removed quickly by rats and possums. Follow-up fills were then made, each comprising 350 grams of Pindone and one Ferratox capsule.

Fifty run-through rat monitoring tunnels were then placed throughout the sanctuary in ten lines of five tunnels each.

These were of the old permanent style, enclosed in a core-flute cover with a wooden base and Perspex trays with a central section containing a sponge. They were pegged with two #8-wire staples to reduce interference from pigs and possums.

They were baited with a dab of peanut butter at each end to encourage use by rodents and overcome any risk of neophobia.

The tunnels were set and monitored twice. On each occasion they returned a tracking index of zero percent for both rats and mice.

“We were delighted by the results,” said FLRT forest manager Pete Shaw. “The poisoning was timed deliberately to coincide with a shortage of rodent food in the area and we believe the double-tap proved devastating to these particular predators.

“The results have certainly been borne out by the latest five-minute bird count in the area. It’s immensely rewarding to see such a tangible result of our efforts to reinvigorate the lifeforce in the forests under our stewardship.”

The Te Hoe Inner Sanctuary is the second such reserve established by the Forest Lifeforce Restoration (FLR) Trust on its land within the Maungataniwha Native Forest. The $60,000 project is run in partnership with DOC, which is contributing $35,000 over three years towards the cost of the project from its Community Conservation Partnership Fund (CCPF). Over this period the Trust aims to eliminate from the area most predators of native species.

The new sanctuary is sited on the western side of the Trust’s Maungataniwha property and is run along the same lines as the Trust’s original 600 hectare sanctuary centred on Waiau Camp, with a similar concentration of traps and bait stations targeting predators such as rats, stoats and possums which cause such havoc with native species of flora and fauna. Bird counts and trapping figures provide an indication of the programme’s success.

“Establishing a second sanctuary in this rugged, remote and inaccessible area is ambitious but the success of the original sanctuary tells us that the blood, sweat, tears and capital involved is absolutely worth it,” said FLRT Chairman Simon Hall.

“The restoration of life to an area which had been badly knocked about by predators is a joy to experience. You only have to go several meters beyond the treeline in the Waiau Camp sanctuary to hear the sounds of our native birds and to feel the ngahere mauri (forest lifeforce). It’s wonderful.”

The site of the new sanctuary was selected for the abundance of existing old logging tracks through the native forest, the rare species known to already be present there, including kiwi, whio and kaka and the forest itself. Although logged in the 1960s the area has an intact native forest canopy. The forest is a mix of podocarp, beech and tawa bush.

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