Changing Planet

Zero Invasive Predators

This week past the NEXT Foundation of New Zealand made the major announcement of start-up funding for a company named ZIP. Zero Invasive Predators (ZIP) aims to regenerate our native birdlife by transforming the way invasive predators are managed on mainland New Zealand. On small islands (in the range of 10,000 hectares) we have the amazing ability, and luxury, to be able to remove all of an invasive predator species using targeted eradication methodologies, and then manage reinvasion at near-zero leveraging the strong deterrent of surrounding waters acting as a barrier. On the ‘mainland’, or equivalently very large islands, this is not possible, and true eradication of predators has never been possible as they rapidly re-invade from nearby connected areas in a sort of ‘vacuum effect’ from the gap left by their predecessors. The ZIP company is an exciting step-forward for conservation in New Zealand, because it will be able to combine many different lines of already active research and development and enhance their overall impacts.

In the media this week also is a report in The New Yorker entitled “The Big Kill” describing one foreign journalist’s intrepid journey through New Zealand to understand the nation’s dedication to efforts such as ZIP. Accompanying it is a series of haunting photos under the title “Bloody, bloody, biophilia” – a reference to New Zealand’s interpretation of E O Wilson’s call to biophilia, but fittingly loaded with native species who have been lost at the bloody paws of introduced mammalian predators. These events, as well as the recent launch of the Predator Free New Zealand (PFNZ) trust, and the celebration of 50 years of rodent eradications in New Zealand, hail a triumphant end to 2014, and the prospects for a very exciting 2015 and onwards indeed.

Rats and other invasive mammals are destroying New Zealand’s native fauna (Photo: Stephen Dupont/The New Yorker)
Conservation biologist Dr. James Russell works throughout the world on remote islands and other sites to provide conservation solutions by applying a combination of scientific methods. Follow James on National Geographic voices for regular updates on his own work or other exciting developments in island conservation.

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