The DOC website has the latest updates on the Ulva Island rat eradication.
It has now been two weeks since the public meetings and I’m sure that many of you are wondering what is happening. Unfortunately, we have very little news from the island itself. As mentioned previously, the rat traps have gone past the point of preventing population growth, so we have scaled our trapping checks back to once per fortnight so that staff can focus on the planning to eradicate rats. The last check, just prior to the meeting, brought the total number of rats caught to 70. These have been caught all over the island. The next trap check is scheduled for Friday – I’ll update you as soon as I get the results.
This upcoming rat trap check will be our last. We will close the traps after this so that the 3 days of effort per check can be redirected onto more urgent tasks – such as planning for the eradication. It is important to understand that the rat population has reached a point where its growth will no longer be influenced by any efforts that we put into trapping – even if we were checking traps daily.
Effort has continued toward planning for an eradication operation. The Department will finalise its planned approach by the end of this week and we will then focus our effort onto the required preparation and planning. Regardless of the method chosen, we have appointed a project manager, Paul Jacques, who will be able to work full time on making Ulva Island rat free again. Paul has been the project manager for the possum control work on Stewart Island and we are reallocating his essential possum control tasks to other people and deferring or cancelling non-essential work.
Has this been tried before?
As part of the planning, we have also been reviewing other island eradication operations and discovered that we aren’t the first group to be in this situation after all. Back in 1995, Fregate Island in the Seychelles group (located in the Indian Ocean) was invaded by rats and they attempted to eradicate them while numbers were still low using bait stations. This is a similar situation to Ulva in that rat numbers were building rapidly and had unlimited food supplies. The bait station operation failed and they had to wait until rats reached peak population density and exhausted the food supply before they were able to eradicate them using an aerial bait drop.
Recently we received a real boost to fundraising for the eradication from Birdlife International Community Conservation Fund. This fund donated $5000 to kick-start fund raising. If you wish to help Ulva Island become rat free again, then the Ulva Island Trust will be co-ordinating any donations. Keep an eye on their website (www.ulvaisland.org) for details about how to donate.
Do you have a Question?
In the last few weeks there have been lots of good questions asked about what is going on and why. We will try to capture these questions and answers in a Frequently Asked Questions section loaded on the Ulva page of the DOC website. We should have this in place within the next two weeks.
If you have a question, feel free to give me a call or send me an e-mail.