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Auckland Island: Conservation and Restoration

New conservation efforts on Auckland Island, New Zealand aim to restore native flora and fauna.

The Sub-antarctic Islands of New Zealand have historically been home to a wide array of native seabirds and other wildlife that thrive off of the nutrient-rich waters. Auckland Island (46,000 Ha) is the fifth largest island in New Zealand. One of the leading threats to the species found here is introduction of invasive species including mice, cats, and pigs. In recent years conservationists from around the world have been working together to remove these invasive predators. 

The conservation efforts currently taking place in New Zealand are all part of a larger conservation initiative called Predator Free 2050. The initiative aims to remove invasive predatory species by the year 2050 with the help of many organizations including Predator Free New Zealand and The Department of Conservation. The initaitive will boast a return of native biodiversity, a boom in economic growth, and strengthening of the national identity of New Zealander’s in deepening their connection to the natural world.  

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A friendly Antipodes Island Parakeet with Jason Zito, an island restoration specialist at Island Conservation. Credit: Island Conservation

One of the projects aimed at assisting this initiative was the Million Dollar Mouse partnership. In 2016, the Million Dollar Mouse partnership including the New Zealand Department of Conservation, Island Conservation, and partners removed invasive mice from Antipodes Island, restoring native flora and fauna to the area. Some incredibly rare species call this island home including the Antipodes Island Parakeet, the Antipodean Wandering Albatross, and various invertebrates.  

Western cliffs of Auckland Island. Credit: Finlay Cox

Now conservationists are tackling the conservation challenges on Auckland Island, where invasive pigs, cats, and mice are currently inflicting immense ecological harm. The archipelago is listed as a World Heritage Site and is home to 44 birds, 280 insects, and 196 plant species. To date, invasive pigs and cats have caused the extinction of 32 of the breeding bird species on Auckland. Invasive mice feed on insects and compete with birds for this valuable food source.  Island Conservation Project Director, Richard Griffiths explains the importance of the project:

Removal of invasive species from Auckland Island at 46,000ha will set new benchmarks for scale and complexity. Right now with pigs, cats and mice present, the island is like an ecological desert. Following their removal, we can expect the return and recovery of literally dozens of sea and land bird species that used to nest on the island in the millions. Clearing New Zealand’s sub-Antarctic islands of all introduced vertebrates is a key milestone toward realizing the vision of being predator free by 2050 which we at Island Conservation are fully behind.” 

Megaherbs growing on Campbell Island reveal what Auckland Island could look like after restoration. Credit: Finlay Cox

The first step in the planning process was to build adequate infrastructure, so staff would have a place to stay during the duration of the trials. This involved creating tent shelters that were transported by cargo ship to provide a home base near Falla Peninsula; the main focus of the preliminary trials. Next, best methods were explored for invasive species removal using population surveys and GPS tracking, and the logistics of transporting supplies were examined.

The final team is due back in March to process and analyze the results. The conservation efforts on the island provide a glimmer of hope for the rebounding of endemic bird species on Auckland Island. One day soon the island will return to its original wild and pristine state. 

Source: Predator Free NZ
Featured Photo: Rata in bloom on Falla Peninsula. Credit: Richard Griffiths/island Conservation

About Stephanie Dittrich

Stephanie Dittrich is a current senior in Environmental Studies at UC Santa Cruz and a transfer student from De Anza College. She is also currently pursuing a Certificate of Achievement in Geospatial Technologies and a second Associates Degree in Graphic Design from Foothill College. She has worked in multiple marketing and design focused roles at environmental nonprofits as well as the Genomics Institute at UC Santa Cruz. She just finished spending 3 months in Costa Rica conducting field work where she did an independent research project and wrote a scientific paper about flight response time in the Morpho peleides butterfly. In her spare time, Stephanie enjoys working on creative photography and design projects, often centered around wildlife photography, as well as more experimental and contemporary subject matter.

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