The great extermination: How New Zealand will end alien species


Nga Manu Images By Veronika Meduna ENTRY to Zealandia is past a checkpoint where all bags and pockets are turned inside out to stop unwanted stowaways, and then through a double gate. Inside the 2.2-metre-high fence is an ancient world, completely unlike the humming urban environment we just left behind. Bird song soon takes over, the tracks narrow and the forest closes in. We are inside the old water reservoir for New Zealand’s capital, Wellington. Over the past two decades, it has undergone an extraordinary transformation, from urban utility to ecological haven. During the day, large forest parrots called kaka swoop over tuatara, the only survivors of a prehistoric group of reptiles. Night-time visitors have a good chance of crossing paths with a little spotted kiwi. Hihi – small black, white and yellow birds that had once disappeared from New Zealand’s main islands – are flourishing. What you won’t see are many mammals: virtually all have been eradicated. Mice (and humans) are the only exception and pest control keeps mouse numbers low. The sanctuary is a pocket version of something the government would like to see rolled out nation-wide: a step into New Zealand’s rich and unusual ecological past. Apart from bats, all terrestrial mammals in New Zealand are invasive species, introduced by humans in recent times. They pose a real threat to native animals, so in July last year, the country’s then Prime Minister, John Key, announced an audacious plan. Dubbed Predator Free 2050, it seeks to rid the country of three major alien pests – rats,
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