Rat trapping network helping offshore island’s endangered seabird survival

Tane Manu (Nga Mahanga a Tāiri), Wayne Capper (Te Kāhui O Taranaki/ Conservation Department), and Sera Gibson (Taranaki Mounga) with Mataroa Island in background. Photo – Andy Jackson

Taranaki Daily News 

After years of sporadic pest control efforts, an intensive barrier of traps has reduced numbers of rats and other predators on Nga Motu/Sugarloaf Islands, offshore of New Plymouth, to almost zero.

Around 19 species of seabirds, numbering around 10,000 birds in total, including endangered shearwaters, nest on three of the five offshore islands – Mataora​/Round Rock, Pararaki and Motuotamatea​/Snapper Rock – within the Tapuae Marine Reserve, close to Port Taranaki.

Intensive trapping over many years by the Department of Conservation, and more recently in collaboration with Taranaki Mounga, Ngāti Te Whiti hapu and Ngā Mahanga a Tāīri, has almost wiped out rats and mice on the islands.

Since October 2020, only four rats have been trapped on Mataora Island, while no sign of predators had been detected on Pararaki and Motuotamatea during routine weekly re-servicing of 10 specially designed traps, Taranaki Mounga project manager Sera​ Gibson said.

The traps contain a DC200 stoat trap, a mouse trap and A24 resetting trap, as well as a rat lure formulated by pest control company Zero Invasive Predator (ZIP) to reduce manual servicing.

The reduction in predator numbers meant the group will now re-service traps every fortnight instead of weekly, she said.

Mataora is the closest island to the mainland and low tide provided easy access for rats and other predators to target nesting seabirds, Gibson said.

Together with a 100-trap network and bait stations, in collaboration with New Plymouth District Council, and Francis Douglas Memorial College students, and Taranaki Mounga and iwi, the predator-trapping programme had further significantly reduced pest numbers around Centennial Drive and Paritutu Rock on the mainland above the port, she said.

Read the full Taranaki Daily News article here.