Predator control monitoring after the 2019 1080 operations across Egmont National Park continued in 2020. During monitoring in July 2020 numbers remained low. Rat- tracking tunnel results were at 61 per cent and only 16 per cent for possum wax tag results.
This is substantially less than the 89 per cent rat-tracking rates and 45 per cent possum wax tag results before the 1080 operation.
This was a good result considering that Covid-19 Lockdown restrictions stopped us checking and resetting our stoat and possum traps for nearly two months. This meant our team could not work in Egmont National Park until Level 3. Our volunteers had to wait for Level 2.
Boom in whio duckling number
At the beginning of 2020, a record number of whio ducklings were located in the national park.
Eighty-seven ducklings were found by Department of Conservation (DOC) rangers on eight regularly surveyed rivers. This was an increase of 71 per cent from the 51 ducklings located during the 2018-2019 breeding season.
The annual whio monitoring work on the Mounga is part of the DOC Whio Forever partnership with Genesis Energy.
Collaboration is key to more birds across the region
For the last two years Taranaki Mounga and Towards Predator-Free Taranaki have been working closely to provide a region-wide predator control programme. With more than 4700 traps in the national park and 8000 traps across Taranaki, farmers living on the park boundary are seeing first-hand the positive impact of this work. Whio are now living along rivers on farmland and there have been sightings of toutouwai at Pukeiti, some 15 kilometres from their original location by the North Egmont Visitor Centre. There is also an abundance of other birdlife both in and near the national park.
Goats functionally extinct
After 93 years, the world’s longest running goat eradication programme is coming to an end. During the last three years an increased effort to reduce the goat population and locate the remaining ungulates has proven successful. At the end of 2019, a thermal imaging project was run in the sub-alpine area of the national park. No goats were detected during 30 hours of flying. Since then, hunters have found it more difficult to locate goats.
This is a win for biodiversity as goats cause significant damage to the forest structure because they eat young seedlings and saplings and ring-bark mature trees. This vegetation provides important food sources and habitat for native insects, lizards and birds.
Volunteers continue to support our efforts
The extension of our predator control network across the national park has increased from 9020 hectares in 2016 to more than 18,000 hectares now. With this increase, willing local residents and businesses are volunteering their time to support the restoration of our Mounga. Sixty per cent of the trapping network is now managed by volunteers.
The wider community’s trapping efforts contribute to the Towards Predator-Free Taranaki programme.
Expansion of cadet ranger programme
In 2019, former Supporting Today’s At Risk Teenagers (START) student Trevor Walker (17) was welcomed to the Taranaki Mounga Project as our first cadet ranger. Since then, two more START Taranaki cadet rangers, Tipunakore Rangiwai (18) and Marley Joyce (17), have joined the project. All three work closely with our rangers on a number of predator control and monitoring activities. They are gaining valuable skills and qualifications.
National Park a hub for research
Even with the disruption of Covid-19, a number of research projects were conducted across the National Park.
We are proud to be at the forefront of testing new technology and to be a hub for research which will benefit not just New Zealand but also the world. Current research being conducted includes: