Looking South

March 15, 2018 8:06 am

Auckland Island is a like an aircraft carrier. A landing spot for albatross that roam the southern oceans.

It has 46,000 ha of deck space, much more than other Subantarctic landing pads, but little is available.

Albatrosses – Gibson’s wandering albatross, royal southern albatross, light-mantled sooty albatross and white-capped mollymawk – have been pushed off or to its most inaccessible edges by pigs, cats and mice.

Unique land birds – Auckland Islands’ endemic teal, rail and snipe – have disappeared completely.

During a recent brief visit to the New Zealand Subantarctic islands I was struck by the contrast in bird noise between Auckland Island and on neighbouring Adams (10,000 ha) and Enderby (710 ha) islands, both predator-free.

Our five Subantarctic islands are recognised by the United Nations as a World Heritage Area but we’re missing the ecological potential of its largest chunk.

The HMNZS Wellington also took us to 11,000 ha Campbell Island, where Norway rats were successfully removed in 2001, and to 2,000 ha Antipodes Islands, where a mouse eradication campaign in 2016 has just been confirmed as successful.

Congratulations to the Department of Conservation (DOC) and funding partners the Morgan Foundation, WWF-New Zealand, Island Conservation and public supporters.

Making Auckland Island predator free would triple the area available for our ocean wanderers and unique Subantarctic fauna and flora.

Predator Free 2050 Limited was set up to help reach the government’s predator free goals. We act as an investor, broker and facilitator of projects to complement the efforts of the Department of Conservation and work of others in the predator free movement.

Our immediate focus is on kick starting large landscape projects (20,000 ha plus) which target rats, stoats and possums on the New Zealand mainland, but I’m also keeping an eye on the government’s 2025 goal to make all offshore Nature Reserves predator free.

Auckland Island is a big prize we will need to rally support around.

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