A search for a renegade rat has been launched on the inner Hauraki Gulf sanctuary of Tiritiri Matangi Island after the discovery of fresh tracks.
The discovery prompted an immediate response from the Department of Conservation (DOC) with two pest-detection dogs and handlers assigned to the hunt on Monday.
More than 50 additional traps and at least 60 extra tracking tunnels were also deployed by DOC.
Auckland Inner Islands Operations Manager Keith Gell said the response has been as rapid and comprehensive as possible.
“We have had Pai and Indie, two of the Conservation Dog Programme dogs, on the island since Monday which, largely thanks to the support of Kiwibank, is twice what we would have had in past years. Additionally, we are also now able to respond immediately following a suspected incursion,” says Gell.
The dogs are currently completing a sweep of the island.
“The operation will continue until we can be confident the island is once again free of predator-pests,” says Gell.
Tiritiri Matangi is New Zealand’s premier island sanctuary and has been free of animal pests, including mice, since 1993.
It is home to native birds including takahē, kiwi pukupuku and kōkako. There are also tuatara, wētāpunga and five types of native lizard on Tiritiri Matangi.
Even a single rat could do significant harm to the island’s relatively small animal population.
Mr Gell says visiting vessels present the most likely opportunity for rats to access the island and it is vitally important that boaties are especially vigilant about biosecurity measures when visiting the Hauraki Gulf.
“We need everyone who goes even near these taonga islands to play their part so we can preserve the treasures we have and not have to spend time and effort chasing rats that may have taken the opportunity to leap off a passing vessel,” says Gell.