Conservation workers and volunteers have reached the milestone of removing more than 40,000 rats from the Abel Tasman National Park.
Figures from Project Janszoon show that as of October; 41,469 rats, 1881 stoats and 336 weasels had been trapped in the park in the last seven years.
Project Janszoon director Bruce Vander Lee said it was a huge accomplishment and it was the partnership between the Department of Conservation, Abel Tasman Birdsong Trust, Air New Zealand and Project Janszoon that made the milestone at such a scale, achievable.
“We know that every rat we can remove from the system gives our native wildlife a better chance to survive.”
Project Janszoon was established in 2012, a privately funded trust with $25 million to spend on into restoring the park’s ecosystems over the next 30 years.
The resulting collaboration between organisations and local iwi has been hailed for its innovative approach to conservation.
Vander Lee said regular visitors to the park often spoke of the change they had noticed in the birdsong over the last seven years.
“That is just showing us that controlling rats makes a difference, and we love that people are appreciating that.”
The trapping network now covers about 20,000 hectares, or 90 per cent of the national park and Vander Lee said there were around 3500 trap boxes with more than 5000 traps in them.
He said it also showed how tough conservation work was, with each rat representing someone walking to and clearing a trap.
“Putting out those thousands of traps, walking tens of thousands of kilometres to check them, hundreds of thousands of times – it is a real story of what conservation work is.
In the last seven years, kākā, kākāriki and pāteke had been reintroduced to the park. Vander Lee said it was starting to work on a plan to reintroduce kiwi to the park.
“There’s people still around who can remember hearing kiwi calls in the park and I think it would be nice to come full circle so they can hear that again.
Abel Tasman Birdsong Trust co-ordinator Abby Butler said the organisation has around 130 active volunteers who check trap lines in the park twice a month and do restoration work and planting.
The trust was formed in 2007 and initially had a short line of around 80 traps, which had since grown to a network of 700.
Butler said the trust advertised for volunteers and had an influx which meant there was currently a wait list for people who wanted to get out and check traps in the park.
“We are really fortunate, there are not many community groups that need volunteers that have a waiting list.”
Butler said the tourism operators made a huge contribution to the trust, paying a “Birdsong levy” each year based on the number of visitors they brought into the park, which enabled them to keep working to remove pests and restore the environment.