New Zealand was once a bird’s paradise hosting over 200 species. Many of them, like the iconic Kiwi, have become flightless over generations due to the absence of natural predators. Now, invasive species such as rats, possums and weasels threaten the native and unique wildlife that still remains, killing around 25 million native birds each year.
New Zealand’s Department of Conservation (DoC) has taken steps to remove invasive mammalian predators that have altered native ecosystems and continue to devastate native species. The response: aerially dropping and lacing bait stations with a deadly toxin known as Compound 1080. A single aerial drop of Compound 1080 can kill around 98 percent of possums and have a similar success rate on rats.
Prime Minister John Key wants “every single part” of New Zealand to be predator free of these invasive species by 2050 and believes getting rid of them will be “the most ambitious conservation project attempted anywhere in the world.”
Key announced a $20 million commitment to set up Predator Free New Zealand Limited, a company that would lead the charge in ridding the nation of the foreign predators by 2050.
James Russell, a conservation biologist at the University of Auckland in New Zealand and coordinator of the program Predator Free New Zealand, states that the new goal is “the modern equivalent to landing someone on Mars” and will ultimately require new technologies and billions of dollars to succeed.