Predator elimination work getting underway in the South Ōkārito blockTuesday 2 November 2021
Over the past 9 months, on behalf of Predator Free South Westland, ZIP has been preparing to remove predators from the South Ōkārito block. Much of this planning has involved numerous conversations with Makaawhio, the local community, and private landowners. These conversations have been instrumental in informing what this work will look like.
A range of methods will be used to eliminate predators – the aim is to do the job once and remove all predators so that the use of tools like aerial toxins are not used in the future. To begin the predator elimination mahi, ZIP are now getting underway with the aerial operation. The first stage is a non-toxic prefeed application which gets predators keyed onto eating the bait, the second stage uses a small amount of toxin to remove predators. The non-toxic prefeed application is taking place on Wednesday 3 November. Toxin will not be applied until after 15 November.
The non-toxic prefeed bait is dyed green. The reason for this is that, over the past several months, ZIP have been teaching kea to avoid eating cereal bait by providing them with look-a-like baits that temporarily make them feel sick. Doing this makes kea much less likely to eat toxic bait when they come across it later.
During the baiting operation, the Forks-Ōkārito Road will be closed (for up to 4 hours) while helicopters are operating overhead and road crews safely undertake post sowing inspections. All DOC tracks within the operational area, and beach access south of Ōkārito village will also be closed during the pre-feed operation. ZIP staff will be stationed on site and will advise when these facilities are re-opened. We acknowledge these disruptions may cause inconvenience, and thank you for your understanding and support for this important work.
Another component of the predator removal is some ground-based elimination methods. ZIP are also gearing up to start this workaround the perimeter of the rowi sanctuary, with good progress being made on installing bait stations and traps. The team will begin applying the bait and setting those traps within the next few weeks.
Removing predators from South Ōkārito, and throughout the PFSW project area, will enable rowi, kōtuku, kea and other taonga to thrive. Eliminating possums also removes the risk of bovine TB for the local farmers. This project is creating jobs, and maintaining employment, for many in the local region that has suffered economic hardship from the significant loss of tourism.