New Zealand’s Pest-Free Islands Allow Endangered Species To Thrive

New Zealand

New Zealand is home to one of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet, and its conservation efforts set the bar high for the entire world.

New Zealand is home to one of the most ecologically diverse landscapes in the entire world, which is why preservation efforts to protect that wildlife are so important. It’s not a secret that this country’s landscape is second to none (anyone who has watched the Lord of the Rings movies knows that much) and those who have been lucky enough to visit can personally attest to its beauty. However, among all of its flora and fauna are many species of animals that are endangered, requiring a little more help from humans than others.

New Zealand’s answer to this has been to create pest-free islands. In going the extra mile to ensure that the habitats belonging to endangered species are not plagued with predatory animals, conservation efforts have been successful in protecting many from an unnatural decline over the decades. While these pest-free islands are not a new addition to New Zealand, they are kept up regularly and people are free to visit them. The Nature Reserves are made up of more than 50 offshore islands which hold the key to protecting dwindling species numbers, and the science behind it, and these animals, is truly fascinating.

Offshore Islands And The Process Of Pest Removal

The Department of Conservation also called the DOC, is responsible for New Zealand’s offshore islands and their natural habitats. The Department of Conservation is responsible for well over 200 islands, with some consisting of nothing more than small rock stacks – but even something that small serves as a precious home to any number of land or marine animals, some in need of dire protection. These islands are so important because they’ve existed all this time without the invasions of pests, such as rats, which are one of the major problematic species for many of the more rare, vulnerable animals that inhabit these environments. Since these islands were never inhabited by predators, the Department of Conservation works to keep it that way.

 

Of Nature Reserves, there are more than 50, each of which provides a unique habitat for the flora and fauna that are found on it. These also serve as locations for conservation projects, which included endangered species such as kakapo, tuatara, and the black robin. Seabirds are also a huge part of conservation efforts, as the offshore islands support most of the country’s population and also help to protect the diversity of each species. These rare seabirds could be anything from albatross to penguins, and every bird species in between.

For others, the critically endangered, these islands are their only hope of survival, according to the Department of Conservation. It’s not only animals who need protection in some cases, though – there are various species of plants that also need protection, which make these islands a multi-purpose source of protection from climate change, human disturbance, and the predators that the Department of Conservation has worked so hard to remove. Along with marine life, reptiles are also in need of protection on these islands – their surrounding flora help to maintain a natural balance in the ecosystem, however, only one or two types of plants from critically endangered species exist today.

A permit is needed to visit the islands but the experience is truly like no other. Not only have the islands been untouched by human hands, but the wildlife found on them is found nowhere else in the world – making a visit to one of these truly spectacular ecosystems a once-in-a-lifetime moment in time. Not all of the islands are open to visitors, however, and some are even ‘no landing zones,’ meaning transportation and exploration of any kind are strictly forbidden. It’s through these means that New Zealand is able to keep a handle on the conservation of their wildlife, something which sets them apart from other parts of the world. It could be said that these islands are some of the last truly untamed parts of the world, as humans will never inhabit their protected lands. The sanctuaries that have been cleared of pests, such as Rakitū Island, are proving to be effective, as endangered species, such as the little blue penguin, have settled in once again. Critically endangered species, such as kākāpō and pāteke, have also grown in numbers, proving that conservation efforts have been highly effective in the way of preserving both the islands’ natural environments as well as the animals who can continue to call them ‘home’.

BY KATIE MACHADO

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