Campbell Island conservation sanctuary rat free

  • Chris Carter

Campbell Island conservation sanctuary has been officially declared rat free following the largest rat eradication programme ever attempted in the world, Conservation Minister Chris Carter announced today.

Two years ago the Department of Conservation (DoC) set out to eradicate Norway rats from Campbell, which is one of New Zealand's five subantartic islands located about 700 km south of the South Island.

Campbell spans 11,300 hectares making it four times the size of Kapiti, which was previously the largest New Zealand offshore island to be cleared of rats.

"A team of conservation officers returned from Campbell Island today with the news that after months of surveying and trapping, they have been unable to find any trace of rats whatsoever," Mr Carter said.

"This is a fantastic result from a $2.6m programme of rat eradication. It is a proud day for New Zealand conservation and proves once again that we are world leaders in pest control and protection of our native species.

"After 200 years of rat occupation, Campbell is now a safe haven for the millions of seabirds that breed there. Its rat-free status will allow DoC to return home the rare Campbell Island teal, a flightless relative of the endangered brown teal, which has been bred in captivity in the Mt Bruce Wildlife Centre for several years. There are also plans to re-establish a population of Campbell Island snipe, a tiny wading bird that was re-discovered just six years ago."

The Norway rat is one of the smallest predators killing New Zealand's native species, and has proved to be one of the most difficult to eradicate. The effort on Campbell Island was made possible with $187m of new funding provided in the 2000 Budget to implement the New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy. It was hugely ambitious not least because of the problems of working on a huge, remote and rugged island in the often bitterly cold Southern Ocean environment.

"I wish to pay tribute to everyone who made this eradication possible. Having visited Campbell Island myself, I am keenly aware of the environment in which these dedicated conservationists had to work," Mr Carter said.