Hunt on for importer of NZ’s 'worst animal'

Orokonui  Ecosanctuary's stoat problem came to an end in November after 10 months, spending of $10,000 and up to 50 saddleback bird deaths.

That does not mean the sanctuary can rest on its laurels, as an estimated 200,000 more stoats roam the countryside.

But there is hope for Otago's native birds and a stoat expert is visiting Dunedin this week.

Prof Caroline King of the University of Waikato's School of Science is in town on a week-long mission to find the source of New Zealand's stoat problem.

Prof King has been researching the pests for more than 40 years and said they were smart, savvy and cautious.

"They are programmed to kill what they can, catch what they can't eat and come back to it,'' Prof King said.

"They were the worst animals to have been brought into New Zealand.''

If a stoat penetrated a kiwi chick enclosure, it could kill up to 30 birds in a week.

"We know from remote cameras that stoats just cruise up and down these perimeter fences, looking for a way in.''

Orokonui introduced 10 kiwi chicks to its creche programme yesterday.

Prof King had only limited information on how stoats came to be imported but was particularly interested in hearing from anyone with information involving the importation and use of stoats and weasels for rabbit eradication in the 1870s.

She has already visited Toitu Early Settlers Museum, the Hocken Library and the Dunedin City Council Archives.

She is in Dunedin until Sunday and can be contacted at cmking@waikato.ac.nz.

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