island conservation wwf new zealand antipodes island restoration eradication

Around the World in 68 Days: Antipodes Restoration Team is Homeward Bound

Demobilizing Antipodes Island – a bittersweet end to an incredible work adventure.

It has been 68 days since Jason Zito and I left the South Island of New Zealand bound for Antipodes Island to participate in the Million Dollar Mouse campaign to rid the island of damaging invasive mice. Maybe 68 days seems quite long, especially for our loved ones. But for us, that the time has passed quickly, as it usually does during field deployments. Every day we face new challenges and come away with new knowledge—and of course a healthy dose of fatigue to ensure to a good night’s sleep.

Island Conservation Shelters on Antipodes Island

We built the shelters we stayed in on Antipodes Island. Credit: Million Dollar Mouse

Working with the New Zealand Department of Conservation (DOC) has been an exceptional experience. We have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know each person a little more every day as well as strengthening the relationships between the organizations and individual team members.

Jason and I recently conducted an After Action Review (AAR) with the Antipodes project manager, Stephen Horn and assistant project manager, Keith Hawkins. We excitedly discussed potential collaborations between our organizations in the future. We hope to partner with DOC and support other projects in New Zealand and throughout the South Pacific again soon.

The eradication team successfully completed operations on July 12th and since then Jason and I have been focused on monitoring invertebrates and ground bird species, including the beautiful and Vulnerable Antipodean Parakeet and other species on two of the offshore islands of Bollons and Leeward.

Island Conservation Antipodes and Bollons K Walker

View of Bollons Island from Antipodes Island. Credit: K Walker

Mere days after celebrating the completion of operations, the team started working on the demobilization process. This is not our favorite set of tasks, but it must be done. When the ships arrived with three additional personnel, we immediately went to work deconstructing the temporary structures we built just two months ago that stored the three helicopters and other operation equipment.

Island Conservation Antipodes Hangar

Helicopter hangar. Credit: Million Dollar Mouse

With all the infrastructure taken down, we are now waiting for a window of favorable weather and seas (light winds and calm waters) to load the boats with all the gear and materials we brought to the island. This has been an incredible experience—hard work, but very rewarding. Everything is staged and the team is looking forward to the next few days to complete the demobilization and return home!

Island Conservation Albatross Chick

Albatross chick learning to fly on Antipodes Island. Credit: K Walker

Featured photo: Million Dollar Mouse

About José Herrera

José Luis earned a MS in biology from the University of Puerto Rico, conducting research with the amphibians and reptiles composition in the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge at Vieques Island in Puerto Rico. He supports and leads various restoration work on islands such as Desecheo, Juan Fernández, Cabritos, Alto Velo, and Mona for the benefits of threatened and unique species.

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