The prospect of a pest free New Zealand is fascinating. It’s the kind of ‘think big’ science project that landed men on the moon.
An estimated 26 million birds are killed each year in New Zealand by introduced predators like rats, stoats, possums and other mustelids. And that’s a conservative number.
But just as the moon landing was one giant leap forward for mankind, a pest-free New Zealand would also be a giant step forward for the country as well as its wildlife.
It would be a sign that we as a country value our ecosystems and the animals that live within them. It would push New Zealand to the forefront of worldwide conservation efforts and would make the people who made it happen – the scientists, the community leaders, the innovative companies – leaders in the field.
As we discover in the story ‘New Zealand’s Greatest Challenge‘, two things are needed for New Zealand to become pest-free: community buy-in, and scientific and technological advances.
Slowly but surely, communities around New Zealand are banding together to create safe havens for bird populations behind predator proof fences or in heavily trapped forests – witness Tiritiri Matangi Island, Tawharanui Regional Park, Revive Rotoiti, among many, many more. This needs to be scaled up to a national scale, where every school, every home owner is trapping for pests.
Developing the technological and practical wherewithal needed to rid the country of pests like rats, possums and stoats would be costly, and it will take our best and brightest scientists into unchartered territory, but any advances made could be exported around the world.
Interestingly, few people say it cannot be done. All that is needed is the will.
Such a project would galvanise the country behind a common and worthwhile cause. And it would bring the most beautiful of music – that of birdsong – back to our forests.