Chatham Islands a haven for threatened species
October 25, 2022 6:20 pm
Recently Predator Free 2050 Limited’s Project Support Manager Nathan McNally travelled to the Chatham Islands to see how the Chatham Restoration Trust’s predator free project is progressing.
The Chatham Islands are located about 840 km east of Christchurch and are home to just over 800 permanent residents who are lucky enough to live alongside more endemic species than any other biogeographic area in Aotearoa. It is also home to many of the threatened species native to Aotearoa. The Islands are surrounded by bountiful seas, and wildlife that’s found nowhere else in the world with 20% of all species being endemic, which makes it truly unique.
Predator Free 2050 Limited (PF2050 Ltd) partnered with the Chatham Restoration Trust (CRT) in March 2020 to begin a project that given the islands mustelid free state, would aim to eradicate possums, feral cats and rats. The first phase of the project will begin in the north-east sector of the island once feasibility studies have been completed.
Supported by the local Chatham/Rēkohu/Wharekauri community and working alongside Māori and Moriori partners, Chatham Islands Regional Council, The Department of Conservation and The Chatham Island Enterprise Trust, it’s a project that is bringing everyone together for a common goal.
Nathan’s trip had a number of purposes including spending time with the Chatham Islands Predator Free Project Lead Hamish Tuanui-Chisholm and taking part in field trips across the island to assess the requirements of the feasibility study. Although the trip’s main focus was work related Nathan says “I couldn’t not feel a bit of nostalgia, this place holds some really special memories for me and it’s a privilege to be playing a small part in making Chatham’s predator free”.
Nathan was first involved with work on the Chatham’s back in 2000 when he began his career in pest control. Working as a ranger for DOC, Nathan’s role focussed on protecting the Chatham Islands oyster catcher (Threatened–Nationally Critical) and monitoring and manipulating the nests to increase chick production along the northern coastline.
Nathan later became the Ranger on Pitt Island which is the second largest island in the Chatham Archipelago and is called Rangiauria in Māori and Rangiaotea in Moriori. After leaving the Chatham’s in 2005 Nathan went on to lead an exciting and varied career in biodiversity protection.
Nathan has been involved in the Grand and Otago Skink programme at Macraes Flat, worked in the subantarctic as part of the NZ sea lion research and spent time on Falkland Islands before finding his place here with PF2050 Limited in late 2020.
Now, back on the island many years later Nathan spent the three days visiting the north-eastern part of the island with Hamish, DOC personnel and to discuss options on how to best tackle the diverse landscape which includes; farmland, dunes, scrub, bracken fields and edges of the Te Whanga Lagoon.
The Minister of Conservation Hon Poto Williams was also visiting the islands at the time. Eager to meet with locals and hear more about the project plans first-hand, the Minister spent part of the day with the C.I.R.T and the Mayor listening to the islands vision and predator free aspirations for a thriving community.
Speaking about his trip to the Chathams and the future of the project Nathan says “Visiting a project that is in its early stages is really exciting. Watching the project evolving and moving forward towards their overall vision, as well as bringing their community along on the journey is really neat, even more so when you have a wee connection with the islands”
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