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Nasty ants wiped from conservation island

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 2/06/2016

Conservationists are celebrating a big victory over a little enemy.

A wildlife reserve in the Hauraki Gulf has just become of the of the few places in the world to totally eradicate the Argentine ant, one of the world's most destructive, invasive species, Conservation Minister Maggie Barry says.

Despite their size, Argentine ants are considered a highly damaging species capable of killing insects, lizards and even birds, and competing with them for food as they set up hungry super-colonies.

They're listed among the 100 worst eco-invaders by the World Conservation Union and since 2001 had set up home on Tiritiri Matangi Island - an open nature reserve that's home to kiwi, takahe and kokako.

But a decade-long effort by the Department of Conservation and volunteers has managed to purge the pests, and after three years of none being found, Tiritiri Matangi has been declared Argentine ant-free.

Key to the programme was the development of new bait and detection methods by DOC scientist Chris Green, Ms Barry said.

"Achieving this goal is a tribute to the hard work and dogged determination of Dr Green and volunteers from the Supporters of Tiritiri Matangi," she said.

Ms Barry said detection systems and biosecurity measures had been put in to make sure the ants didn't return to the island - which receives more than 30,000 visitors each year.

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