The Otago Peninsula Biodiversity Group, a charitable trust, has been set up to facilitate the eradication of animal pests on the Otago Peninsula and thereby protect the area’s biodiversity values. Possums have been identified as the most controllable of the many animal pests on the Otago Peninsula, and are the primary focus of the group. The Group wishes to work with the community to develop a collaborative approach to possum control.
The Vision is outlined here: OPBT_Vision_2014 (PDF 0.2MB)
Progress so far. . .
The monitoring programme returned results indicating low to moderate possum densities – with several higher density “hotspot” areas. The number of possums found during this monitoring process means that an intensive control programme is worthwhile, viable, and likely to be less costly than if possums were found in higher numbers.
Management Plan and observations
A comprehensive management plan has been formulated by independent contractors with expertise in pest control.
“Possums are decreasing stock carrying capacity, damaging forestry, eating native birds, insects and reptiles, causing the demise of native plants, damaging vegetable gardens and orchard fruit, causing noise annoyance and house damage, and pose a potential disease risk”.
Intensive control of possums on the Peninsula is technically feasible with a combination of well-managed techniques implemented by experienced, industry-certified people. Many opportunities exist for local individuals and groups to be involved in this project.
Where to from here?
Following a concerted fund raising period, it is planned for operations to begin in in March/ April 2011. The eradication process is best undertaken in a “sector by sector” approach. Operations will begin at the Cape Saunders sector (see map below) followed by the Taiaroa Head sector, moving back towards Portobello township. To prevent re-invasion into the outer Peninsula, a controlled buffer zone between Allans Beach Road and Weir Road will be maintained.
Concurrently, in the Southern sector of the Peninsula, coordinated pest control operations will be developed with willing landowners and community members. Training days are planned for volunteers wishing to learn about the safe handling and strategic use of traps within their properties.
Collaboration with Otago University Zoology researchers is planned, to gather information on the movement and behaviour of possums in urban areas. This aspect of the project is critical to stopping the re-invasion of possums from the city-end of the Peninsula.
Another important aspect of the project will be the professional training of local people for direct employment and involvement in eradication operations.
Volunteers will be recruited to assist in the programme, both in trapping possums and in monitoring the biodiversity gains.
12 volunteers are currently undertaking bird monitoring in Sectors 1, 2, and 3. This involves 12 1km long transects where all birds seen and heard are recorded. This information will be used long term in order to gauge trends in bird species and numbers following intensive possum control.
What about other pests?
There are several introduced animal pests on the Otago Peninsula, and all have some impact on other species. From a human perspective, this impact may not necessarily be all bad. For example, stoats prey on rabbits, which are a serious threat to farmers in the sandy area of the lower Peninsula. However, stoats are agile climbers and prey on birds nesting in holes, such as the rifleman and kingfisher. So, a person’s view of stoats may depend on their perspective.
Understanding the different values and perceptions of the Peninsula community, and how individuals view these various animal pests and their place in our landscape, is the essential first step in the process of evaluating the potential for a pest-free peninsula.