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Successful eradication of invasive vertebrates on Rangitoto and Motutapu Islands, New Zealand

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An eradication program conducted on Rangitoto and Motutapu islands in New Zealand successfully removed stoats (Mustela erminea), cats (Felis catus), hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus occidentalis), rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus), mice (Musmusculus) and three species of rat (Rattus, R. exulans and R. norvegicus) from an area of 3,842 ha. The project was significant because it was completed so close to Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, but also, in contrast to many eradication projects, it targeted a suite of invasive mammals in a single operation. To achieve success and avoid conflict in the allocation of resources, target species were prioritized by likelihood of eradication success with resources allocated preferentially to species posing the greatest risk of failure and methods applied in a sequence that allowed each technique to capitalize on its predecessor. Consequences of applying this approach were increased operational efficiency, a shorter operation than planned and reduced project cost. When compared to other projects that targeted the same species but individually, we estimate the Rangitoto and Motutapu project to have cost less than 50 % of the total potential cost if each species had been removed in a discrete operation. Logistical efficiencies created by condensing several operations into one and the use of eradication and detection techniques that targeted multiple species are credited as having the greatest influence on the increased efficiencies observed.

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  1. Fallow deer (Dama dama) were removed by 1990 (Julian 1992), brush-tailed possum (Trichosurus vulpecula) by 1996 and brush-tailed rock wallaby (Petrogale penicillata penicillata) by 1997 (Mowbray 2002).

  2. Norway rats were not detected in trapping completed on Rangitoto or Motutapu prior to the eradication but are considered to have been present because of the existence of museum specimens collected from the islands (the most recent in 1977). The detection of a Norway rat (presumed newly arrived) on Rangitoto 23 months after the application of rodent bait lends further weight to the assumption that Norway rats were present.

  3. Rat DNA samples genotyped after completion of the eradication unexpectedly confirmed the presence R. exulans. This species was not known to be present prior to the eradication proceeding.


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We would like to thank all of those people and organizations that supported the Rangitoto and Motutapu IAS eradication. These include DOC, the Island Eradication Advisory Group, Auckland Regional Council, Motutapu Restoration Trust, Rangitoto Island Historic Conservation Trust, Rangitoto Island Bach Community Association, Ngai Tai, Ngati Paoa, Kawerau a Maki, Ngati Whatua, Fullers, Motutapu Outdoor Education Camp, Motutapu Farms Ltd, Environment Canterbury, NZ Rotary Club of Newmarket, Auckland Regional Public Health Service, Animal Control Products, Skywork Helicopters Ltd, Ports of Auckland, SeaLink Travel Group NZ Ltd and others. Without the support of these organizations and the staff and individuals that work for them the project would not have been the success it has been.

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Griffiths, R., Buchanan, F., Broome, K. et al. Successful eradication of invasive vertebrates on Rangitoto and Motutapu Islands, New Zealand. Biol Invasions 17, 1355–1369 (2015).

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