Community, Environment

Sayonara stoats: D’Urville’s $3.1m plan signed

A plan to stamp out stoats from D'Urville Island was signed during the Covid-19 lockdown. Photo: Rod Morris/www.rodmorris.co.nz

History has been made during lockdown as a multi-million-dollar deal is signed to stamp out stoats.

There was little fanfare to mark the milestone occasion as the culmination of 16 years work was signed in just a few seconds.

A six-year funding commitment will see a combination of old-school techniques and technology help wipe-out stoats from New Zealand’s fifth largest island.

The 16,782-hectare D’Urville Island, in the Marlborough Sounds, is free of ship rats, Norway rats, possums and weasels.

Now, $3.1 million has been committed to stamping out stoats on the island.

D’Urville Island Stoat Eradication Charitable Trust (DISECT), Predator Free 2050 Limited, Rātā Foundation, Marlborough District Council, the NZ Lotteries Grant Board and landowners have all pledged their support.

Oliver Southerland and Angela Fitchett signing the Marlborough District Council agreement at a carefully prepared COVID-19 signing station. Photo: Supplied.

DISECT co-chair Oliver Sutherland says the moments mark the start of an opportunity to “reverse the history of wildlife loss.”

The project will use a variety of traps and lures, including automated luring with an egg mayo mix, as well as smart detection techniques such as cameras and DNA analysis.

Stoats have caused the local extinction of little spotted kiwi, yellow-crowned kākāriki and South Island kākā and threaten an important population of South Island long-tailed bats/ pekapeka.

Predator Free 2050 Limited chief executive Ed Chignell says the project will provide an important boost to the national Predator Free 2050 effort.

“This is a challenging and ambitious project with a lot at stake for wildlife and important opportunities for innovation and learning,” he says.

The government-owned funder is providing $975,000 and facilitating expertise from other projects around the country.

Marlborough District Council Mayor John Leggett says the restoration of wildlife could open new nature-based jobs and opportunities for the island.

D’Urville Island is New Zealand’s fifth largest island. Photo: Tamzin Henderson/ Driftwood Ecotours.

The council is providing $500,000 of support through its biosecurity programme.

Department of Conservation Sounds operations manager Dave Hayes says DOC has been providing technical advice to the project.

“We are pleased to support this community led initiative and will be continuing to provide expert advice and input throughout its duration of the project.”

Special attention will be given to trapping on the mainland within five kilometres of D’Urville and establishing a surveillance network to quickly detect any incursions across the narrow channel from French Pass.

Field work is expected to start towards the end of this year.

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