• Dr Lockwood Smith

Conservation Minister Nick Smith today announced plans to tighten the controls on ferrets by launching a public discussion document "What can we do about ferrets?"

"Ferrets are significant killers of our native birds and a vector for TB, yet more and more New Zealanders are choosing them as pets. We need tighter controls to ensure the risks for our birdlife and to our farming industries are minimised."

Ferrets are the largest of the mustelid family, which also includes stoats and weasels. The animals were first introduced to New Zealand from Europe in the 1880s, to control rabbits, but proved unsuccessful. They became an ecological disaster and are primarily responsible for the collapse of species like the kakapo, weka, blue duck, kiwi and black stilts. They are also killers of kereru, tuis, robins, penguins, albatross and teal.

"The fetish people have for keeping ferrets as pets cannot be allowed to put our native wildlife at risk. We must learn from the bad experience of the 1980s, when ferret farming went through the boom-bust cycle and resulted in hundreds of ferrets being released in the wild. Tighter controls are needed to prevent a repeat of this sort of ecological disaster."

The discussion document looks at four options within the review of the regulations: tighter controls on ferrets kept as pets (eg should a licence be required to keep a ferret as a pet, should the ferret have to be desexed, should the ferret have to be kept in a secure enclosure); tighter regulations of farming, breeding and sale of ferrets; additional measures to protect islands; and further prohibitions and area controls. Submissions close on 31 December 1999.

"Ferrets may look like furry friends, but they are kiwi killers. If we are to save our natural icon and other important native species, we need to get serious about proper controls on ferret ownership."


Inquiries: Rachel Dahlberg, Press Secretary, (04)471 9132 or (025)230 8037

Copies of the discussion document are available from DOC or regional council offices or through the DOC website, www.doc.govt.nz.