Rodent eradication successes documented in journal special issue

13 January 2016
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NZ Journal of Ecology Volume 40 Issue 2 celebrates fifty years of rodent eradications in New Zealand and the cover image by Liz Grant shown here depicts the catastrophic ship rat invasion of Big South Cape Island which led to the extinction of the three native species shown.

A special issue of the New Zealand Journal of Ecology has been released documenting both the history and state-of-the-art of rodent eradications in New Zealand.

Following a successful University of Auckland hosted symposium in 2014 celebrating 50 years of rodent eradications in New Zealand, Dr. James Russell from the School of Biological Sciences and Department of Statistics convened a special issue of the journal to collect important current papers on rodent eradications. The special issue was edited in association with the Department of Conservation Island Eradication Advisory Group.

“We’ve come a long way in fifty years eradicating rodents on New Zealand islands. Starting with tiny Maria Island (Ruapuke) in the Hauraki Gulf, we’re now holding discussions around the potential to remove rodents from islands such as Aotea (Great Barrier) and Rakiura (Stewart Island) and aspiring to remove them even from all of New Zealand”, says Dr. Russell.

The special issue of the journal also contains new papers documenting the original catastrophic rat invasion of Big South Cape Island in 1964, which led to three native species going extinct. Associate Professor Rachel Fewster from the Department of Statistics led work using mitochondrial DNA to determine the origin of this rat invasion.

“The outcome was a surprise: rats seem to have travelled to Big South Cape from some distance away”, says Associate Professor Fewster. “They almost certainly didn’t come from adjacent Stewart Island, nor from the Southland ports of Bluff or Invercargill. Their DNA matches rats from Fiordland and from even more distant regions. We assume they arrived on fishing boats with mutton-birders, whose island cabins and food supplies they quickly devastated.”

The special issue also showcases University of Auckland work tracking rat dispersal using other methods, such as chemical bio-marking. Today the University of Auckland continues its partnership with DOC and involvement in island conservation with studies investigating the environmental attitudes of island residents to pest control, and the eradication of mice from subantarctic Antipodes Island in association with the Million Dollar Mouse project.

The special issue can be viewed online for free.

Podcasts from the 2014 symposium can also be viewed online.