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Maud Island predator-free again

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 10/10/2016

Maud Island has been declared predator-free again, three years after mice were discovered on the Marlborough Sounds sanctuary.

The Department of Conservation has given the island the all-clear following a $163,000 poisoning operation sparked by the November 2013 find of "pockets" of the pest.

The mice were later discovered to be widespread around the island and would have numbered in their thousands.

"The mice would have eaten seeds, fruit and invertebrates on the island. We couldn't find evidence of mice predation on invertebrates or the frogs but the mice would likely have eaten invertebrates," a DOC spokeswoman said.

However, it is now two years since the last dead mouse was found, a period considered sufficient time without sign of rodents to be confident eradication has been successful.

Maud Island has been a 320-hectare wildlife sanctuary since 1974, and is home to rare and endangered species, including the unique Maud Island frogs/pakeka, Cook Strait giant weta, orange-fronted parakeets/kakariki, the Cook Strait striped gecko and Powelliphanta hochstetteri obscura giant snails.

Kakapo and four takahe had also been rehomed on the island. The takahe, along with some frogs, were removed during the poisoning operation and will likely now be returned.

It is not the first time predators have been found on Maud Island. Stoats, which are able to swim, have been found in the past, and in 2006 a sole male mouse was discovered.

DOC Sounds operations manager David Hayes says it is pleasing to have Maud Island predator-free again but it is an ongoing challenge to keep it that way.

"We have made improvements to our Marlborough Sounds islands' biosecurity practices."

About 350 devices, including tracking tunnels, baited traps and chew cards, are now in place to detect any future invasion.

It is not known how mice got onto the island, which is closed to public access.

It was possible they could have slipped through DOC's checks of people and goods going to the island or arrived via an illegal boat landing.

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