Mohua have been found in the Waikaia Forest. Photo by James
An urgent 1080 pest eradication programme is planned for
the Waikaia Forest, in Northern Southland, after a surprise
find of threatened mohua.
The Department of Conservation had thought the rare
yellowhead had been wiped out by the last beech mast in 2000
but it was recently sighted in the forest.
Beech masts create massive amounts of food for rats, stoats
and mice, creating a population explosion which in turn preys
on birds once the seeds run out.
A major beech mast season had been predicted throughout the
country this year and the Government had launched the
''Battle for our Birds'' in response.
Doc Catlins services ranger Cheryl Pullar said staff were
surprised to find the birds but were now concerned those that
had returned to the forest could be lost due to this year's
heavy silver beech mast in the forest.
Tracking tunnels measuring the density of rats showed there
was a rise in the population of pests in the forest.
Doc scientist Graeme Elliott said if pest control was not
carried out in Waikaia Forest, mohua would completely
disappear from the area forever.
''This may be the last opportunity to protect them and
recover this population,'' Mr Elliott said.
Mohua were once common in Southland but now lived only in
fragmented populations, including in the Catlins.
''They've already gone from patches of bush around Southland
and this year's beech mast will finish them off in Waikaia if
we don't control the rats, mice and stoats.''
A pest-control operation would give the mohua a chance to
recover to similar levels of those in the Catlins.
Other endangered species in the Waikaia Forest, such as
long-tailed bats, robins, yellow-crowned parakeet, Hector's
tree daisy, large land snails and peripatus (velvet worms)
would also benefit from the operation.
Environment Southland had granted Doc consent for the 1080
drop and it was expected to go ahead in August or September.
Ms Pullar said the aerial drop would cover just under 7000ha
of the forest, as part of the national Battle for our Birds
Doc had been consulting with the local community on the
operation and would be very careful to ensure aerial sowing
of 1080 was accurate, she said.
''Boundaries of the areas will be marked with GPS technology
and buffer zones from the boundaries, around waterways and
other non-target areas have also been plotted.
"Signage warning of the operation will be put up at entries
to the forest, and tracks within the operation areas will be
cleared by Doc staff at the time of the operation.''
The pellets would contain deer repellent to control by-kill.