Project Kākā is a 10-year joint pest control operation co-ordinated by the Department of Conservation (DOC), the AHB and Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC). It aims to restore forest health and boost native bird populations across a 22,000 hectare belt of the rugged, densely-forested Tararua Range north of Wellington, as well as protect local cattle and deer herds from bovine TB.
The project was named after the kākā, a native forest parrot that has become effectively extinct in the Tararua Range due to predation by rats, stoats and possums. The plan is to control these invasive, non-native mammals every three years through the aerial application of 1080 poison. The first drop took place in November 201; the next is scheduled for spring 2013.
How does this help TB control?
From a TB control perspective, the operation is critical to preventing TB-carrying possums in the southern part of the Tararua range moving north into areas that are currently TB-free. By working with DOC, we are able to knock out a much greater chunk of the possum reservoir than we could on our own. By timing the operation to target rats and stoats as well as possums, we can also ensure the best possible outcomes for native wildlife.
Has it been successful?
Intensive monitoring undertaken before and after the operation has shown significant drops in pest numbers and promising increases in native bird species like rifleman, whitehead and kakariki. These species are like canaries in the coalmine and can give us an early indication if pest control is working.
Eighteen months after the first operation, monitoring shows possum numbers are still less than one per every ten hectares. This is not only low enough to have considerable conservation benefits, but also low enough to stop TB being transmitted from possum to possum, creating a very effective buffer.
Watch a short video about how Project Kākā got off the ground