Pestival on Great Barrier Island/Aotea

Over Anzac weekend I attended the Pestival hui on Great Barrier Island/Aotea. This was a well organised, well attended half day event with 30 minute presentations. 

Pestival on Great Barrier/Aotea 2021

I didn't know too much about Great Barrier before I visited. It's the forth largest island in Aotearoa and has the largest possum free forest in the country. The also have no mustelids or hedgehogs. However they do have pests - including cats, rats, pigs and rabbits.

Jonathan Miles from Auckland Council talked about all the work they are doing on Aotea. They are investing a lot of money (hundreds of thousands/year) in predator monitoring and control and preventing predators from coming to the island.

Tim Higham from predator free 2050 spoke about all the projects they are supporting. This includes an amazing array of landscape predator free projects around the country, along with a lot of very cool innovation (including The Cacophony Project) with the Products to Projects program.

Predator Free 2050 had just announced $3m funding for the Tū Mai Taonga project to protect native species and ecosystems on Aotea. The initial focus will probably be on feral cats and rats. This is a partnership with Auckland Council and the Department of Conservation and will provide a huge boost to the predator free aspirations of the island.

There were also excellent presentations from Shona and Rosie who had travelled up from the Stewart Island/Rakiura Community and Environment Trust and from Basil from the Project Island Song in the Bay of Islands. Both of these presenters gave us a insight into what Aotea could be, talking about their predator free islands that are full of birdsong.

One of Basil's useful tips was to leave rat traps in an area where lots of rats could run over them to get their scent on the traps before they were put on their predator free islands. When a rat swims from the mainland and lands they're looking for food and those traps provide very effective protection from re-invasion. This experience highlights the importance of scent trails, something we have seen with our thermal cameras.

Check out my presentation on the latest and greatest from the team at The Cacophony Project. I also gave this to the Auckland Council the day before on a webinar that will be online shortly.

The day after the Pestival I climbed their maunga Hirakimata, which I thoroughly recommend (although I can still feel my calves a few days later). It provided fantastic views, but despite evidence of trapping the birdsong was non existent. Hopefully this will change with all the effort and resources going into this precious motu.

The view from the top of Mt Hobson/HirakimataLive capture cat trap on Mt Hobson/Hirakimata Aotea

 I came away with a connection to the island, its people and its mission and will be closely watching and cheering for its success. Many thanks to the Annamarie and Taryn from Ecology Vision for organising a very successful day.

 

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