Predator Free New Zealand: Eradication Of Rats To Complete By 2050
In an effort to salvage the country's birds, New Zealand has vowed to wipe out all rats, weasels and feral cats on the South Pacific nation. The plan is that by 2050, the region's rodent problem will be solved.
NPR reported that New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key said on Monday that the government hopes to boost the population of their native birds, including the kiwi. Many of the country's birds are threatened with extinction due to pests competing with them for food, and also eating their eggs.
New Zealand looks to recruit the help of philanthropists and Maori tribes to complete their goal. The country looks to start first with their smaller islands.
"This is the most ambitious conservation project attempted anywhere in the world, but we believe if we all work together as a country we can achieve it," said Key.
New Zealand currently spends $40 million a year on invasive species eradication programs. So far, it has wiped out one-third of its 220 islands of predators. Key suggests that this is not enough. A government research group said that the effort should take $20 billion.
Ecologist James Russell, from the University of Auckland, said that getting rid of the country's pests would greatly alter the health of native flora and fauna, for the better. "I really do think it's possible," he said. "It will require people working in every nook and corner of the country."
Some believe that it would take incredible effort to complete such a task. Holly Jones, an assistant professor of conversation biology at Northern Illinois University, said that South Georgia Island is the biggest island ever cleared of rats. It is over 29 times smaller than New Zealand's North Island and South Island.
"What they're proposing would be incredible if they could pull it off, because their fauna is so vulnerable," Jones said. "My first thought is that if anyone can do it, the Kiwis can. They're the ones who have really pioneered the technology to eradicate mammals. But it's going to be a big task."