Could New Zealand be predator-free by 2050?
New Zealand has set itself an incredible goal – to be free of predators to our native flora and fauna within the next 34 years.
So can we do it? If so, how can we make it happen?
Is being predator-free even possible?
For many countries, the idea of ridding their lands of predators that prey on weaker, endangered species is more of a dream than a reality.
In New Zealand, it’s currently a dream that may well become reality.
The difference is in our country’s size, isolation, and commitment from both government bodies and everyday New Zealanders who are prepared to get out there and work to make it happen.
Firstly, as the Department of Conservation points out, we’re attempting this goal with a great track record in predator eradication and control. We’ve already seen huge successes with places such as the Tawharanui Open Sanctuary Society Inc (TOSSI), which we visit during our Tawharanui day and night tours. Here, behind the fence, there’s not a predator to be found, and therefore our native species have been allowed to thrive.
If New Zealand can imitate those results on a country-wide scale, we’ll soon see a predator-free Aotearoa.
The goal itself
We’re looking to say goodbye to rats, stoats and possums by the year 2050.
These culprits are the worst offenders for our flora and fauna – often either eating and destroying eggs of our precious birdlife, or devouring much-needed food sources for other animals.
As a result, New Zealand is looking forward to stronger links with our environment, a better chance for our native species to survive and thrive (such as the national icon, the kiwi), and for better tourism opportunities that can boost the economy.
How we will achieve a predator-free status
New Zealand will achieve its goal through efforts from all sides.
The government is committing $28 million over four years, and a further $7 million every year after that. Plus, more than $70 million has already been spent on the cause by councils, businesses, community groups and more.
Countless efforts are being made around the country from everyday communities. For example, Project Janszoon in the Abel Tasman National Park is currently working on a large-scale predator control effort.
New techniques and better technologies are constantly being put into use. The application of 1080 is one example, where GPS systems are now in play to increase its efficiency. Additionally, self-resetting traps and toxins that just work on predators are in the works.
Volunteers and ordinary New Zealanders are also getting involved. Whether it’s through local community efforts or simply working on habitat protection in their own backyards, every little bit helps.
So far, more than 100 of the country’s islands have been declared predator-free. It’s a fantastic and optimistic start to meeting New Zealand’s audacious and exciting goal by 2050.
Which of New Zealand’s flora species have come from elsewhere?
Thanks to New Zealand’s geographic isolation, we can boast that as much as 80 per cent of our plantlife is endemic – that is, it only exists in New Zealand!
However, there are also plenty that have come from further afield. While some of them are completely harmless, some are considered as pests that need to be actively controlled so as not to harm our endemic species.
Here are a few top examples of invasive flora species.
Potentially the most talked about and well-known example at present, didymo was first discovered in the country in 2004, which was the first time it was found in the Southern Hemisphere.
Didymo is a freshwater algae that can be hugely damaging to water quality, and to the flora and fauna living in that water. Unfortunately, it is extremely easy to spread didymo, as it only takes one cell in one drop of water to spread to a new waterway. New Zealanders and conservation workers alike are fighting to stop this algae from entering new water supplies.
Gorse bushes are an extremely common sight all over New Zealand, and it’s estimated that they cover as much as 700,000 hectares of land. Gorse spreads easily and is incredibly tough to control, as huge amounts of time, effort and money have gone into various strategies to cut down on gorse populations.
This species isn’t all bad though, as it is used as a windbreak throughout Canterbury, and has been shown to help grow native plants.
Proving that not all invasive species are terrible, the agapanthus flower was introduced to New Zealand and is now commonplace in gardens throughout the country.
While it’s technically listed as a weed, these flowers at least offer a pop of pleasing colour to the eye!
Top Christmas present ideas for hikers
Christmas is on its way, and you’ll soon be thinking about the perfect gifts for your friends and families! If you’ve got a hiker to buy for, you shouldn’t have any troubles at all coming up with something fantastic.
Here are a few top Christmas present ideas for hikers to get you started.
While one of the best things about getting out in the bush is that you’re getting away from all kinds of modern technology, there’s also the fact that modern technology can be a huge help during the hike.
A solar charger or power bank is a clever little device that soaks up the sun’s rays to charge items such as cellphones. They’re small and light enough to fit in a backpack, and are a great addition for longer treks.
Any hiker knows that water is a huge part of a good walk. Your body will need even more of it than usual to stay hydrated during long, hot hikes, but the difficulty is that carrying several litres of water is difficult.
Give your loved one a water filter that can take any water source (such as from streams or lakes), and clean the liquid so it’s safe to drink. It’ll save them from carrying loads of water and let them enjoy their hike even more.
One of the best parts of any hike is getting out and seeing wildlife and scenery that you’d never witness otherwise.
Binoculars simply make it much easier to catch these sights from far away, and can be especially good for anyone interested in birds and birding.
A Habitat Tours day tour
Habitat Tours incorporates hiking, wildlife spotting, sight-seeing, and conservation education into one fantastic day tour from Auckland.
Hikers are always on the lookout for new terrain to explore, and a tour will help them get out and discover a few of New Zealand’s best hidden gems. Opt for a trip during the day to the Waitakere Ranges or Tawharanui, or a special night-time tour of Tawharanui for the chance to see our nocturnal wildlife such as the Morepork and Kiwi.
Decent hiking socks
Socks can be something of a joke gift during Christmas, but every hiker knows the joy of proper hiking socks.
They’re thicker, longer and more durable than your normal socks, and considering how much they get worn, they need replacing fairly often.
Fitbits are excellent tools for the tech-savvy hiker. They’ll track everything from your heart rate to the distance you’ve travelled and the calories you’ve burned along the way.
Plus, since they’re worn on the wrist, they’re a non-intrusive tool for keeping track of your hikes.
Matches can – and often do – get wet when it rains or during river crossings. Lighters eventually run out of gas. Firestarters, on the other hand, just keep going and going.
These lightweight tools are made from magnesium flint and only need to be struck against one another to create a spark to get a fire going.
Tristan Cullen - Passionate Conservationist