Antipodes Islands - mouse free and back on course
On Antipodes Island, 760km southeast of Dunedin, 21 species of seabirds and 4 unique species of ground birds, are now preparing to raise their young in an environment completely free of introduced mammalian predators.
To make this happen, the Million Dollar Mouse operation was one of the most challenging island eradications ever undertaken in NZ and only been made possible because of the widespread public support for campaign.
WWF-New Zealand is a Million Dollar Mouse partner and we believe this project will make a substantial contribution to the protection and preservation of the Antipodes amazing island habitat.
New Zealanders donated $250,000 towards the eradication through the Million Dollar Mouse fundraising campaign, while WWF-New Zealand and Island Conservation each gave $100,000. All public donations were matched dollar for dollar by Gareth and Jo Morgan, who contributed $350,000.
Years of planning and fundraising all came to fruition in the winter of 2016, when mouse numbers were likely to be lower than in summer, breeding finished and food scarce. Over a few weeks in June, 65,500kg of cereal-based Pestoff rodent bait specifically targeted for mice, was dropped by 2 helicopters over a total treatment area of 2045 hectares to kill an estimated 200,000 mice. The accuracy and even spread of bait was ensured with the help of the latest GPS flight line display technology.
As of 23 October 2017, Antipodes Island is mouse free and back on course.
WWF's vision is for the seas, islands and coasts of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean to be valued, understood, wisely used and protected. WWF believes that with adequate protection, we can create a future where much of this remarkable region is still in a pristine state.
The Antipodes Islands, are one of several groups of Subantarctic islands that have been termed the “Galapagos of the Antarctic” due to the number of different species of birds and invertebrates (such as weta and beetles) that have evolved into distinct species on many of these islands.
Protecting biodiversity strongholds such as the Antipodes Island is a priority for WWF - safeguarding what is left and preventing further loss of species through extinction.
Antipodes Island is an ecological treasure. The islands are a Nature Reserve and recognised internationally for their “outstanding universal value” being listed as part of the New Zealand Subantarctic Islands World Heritage Area in 1990.
The Antopodes is the home of the Antipodes Island snipe and the Antipodes Island parakeet, Reisheck’s parakeets, and the Nationally Critical Antipodes wandering albatross. These rare and wonderful birds are found nowhere else in the world, and along with petrels, penguins, fur seals and many other species including a diverse and often unique array of invertebrates, use these islands to breed and feed.
While the first human hunters have largely gone – in the early 1800’s the islands had the reputation as one of the richest sealing grounds in the world, with whales and penguins also hunted for oil – their legacy remains in the form of pests, such as mice.
The unique wildlife and habitat of the Antipodes Islands was under a new threat. Until 2016, mice were the only mammalian pest species present on the Antipodes. They ate the eggs and chicks of seabirds such as petrels and were implicated in the deaths of albatross chicks on other subantarctic islands. Mice also eat huge numbers of insects and the seeds of plants that are critical to the health of the islands and have so far wiped out two taxa of invertebrates. On other subantarctic islands where mice are the sole mammalian pests they have removed up to 90% of the invertebrate biomass.
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Million Dollar Mouse is an inspiring project aiming to protect this important ecosystem, currently at risk if the mice are not removed.
Eradicating mice from the island is an achievable way to ensure this island and the native species that call it home are preserved. WWF was involved in the major eradication of rabbits from Macquarie Island, along with the Australian Government and many other partners, and believes that this project can be equally effective.