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Forest & Bird’s rat trapping experts have pointed to official maps of this year’s mega-mast, and are pleading with Government and councils to increase their 1080 rat control programmes.

The country is in the middle of a rat plague caused by a mega-mast event, but Forest & Bird is warning the worst is yet to come, with a plague of stoats predicted next.

Forest & Bird says the maps make it clear how little rat or stoat control there is across most of the nation’s forest and tussock land, and that local native species could easily go extinct as a result.

Areas undergoing a mast event:

Compared with areas being treated with 1080 rat control this year:

Debs Martin, from the Pelorus Bat Recovery programme, and Gillian Wadams, from Ark in the Park in the Waitakere ranges presented official maps at the organisation’s annual conference, comparing the massive country-wide scale of this year’s mega-mast, and the comparative paucity of rat and stoat control available to deal with it.
 
Debs Martin, Regional Manager for the top of the South Island, says “Even with a growing number of community trapping groups, and the biggest investment ever made in biodegradable 1080 rat control, only 12% of conservation land, or less than 4% of the entire country is being treated with aerial 1080 by the Department of Conservation.”
 
“I manage an intensive trapping protect over 250 ha in the Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve, but rats are pouring out of the 166,000ha Richmond Ranges, where there is no predator control at all. This is happening all across the country, and as we come into breeding season, native birds and bats will have slim chances of survival,” says Ms Martin.

“New Zealand desperately needs to get behind aerial 1080 as our best way of controlling rats across large or rugged areas, so birds, bats, and other natives can breed and raise their young successfully. 

“While we can protect backyards and even suburbs with comprehensive trapping programmes, most of our forests have nothing at all – not traps, nor toxins.

“Our forests are experiencing a rat plague, just like our towns and cities are. The difference is that there is no way to trap in dense, steep and vast forests, and even though DOC are running the country’s largest ever predator control programme, they are still only covering 12% of conservation land, itself only 30% New Zealand’s total land mass.”

“This is a crisis. The Department of Conservation needs more money now, and we all need to ensure the country is better prepared for the next mast event. Mast events are becoming more common as the climate warms, so we must speak up and support the Department of Conservation and our Regional Councils in looking after our forests and native animals," says Ms Martin.

“As this crisis becomes even more apparent, we urge the Government to invest more in extra aerial 1080 this year.  Otherwise across the country our rarer bird and animal may become locally extinct.”

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