Meet the eradication team – Stephen Horn, Project Manager

Steve Horn on Antipodes

Stephen Horn on Antipodes

Stephen Horn  is the Department of Conservation Project Manager for the Antipodes Island Mouse Eradication.

Stephen talks about his conservation work and his aspirations.

Stephen crossing the Landsborough River

Stephen crossing the Landsborough River

“My career started out down a different track with six years of my life spent as a winemaker. I enjoyed three seasons at Peregrine winery in Central Otago where I was the assistant Winemaker. In the New Zealand offseason I worked in the Bordeaux region of France.

In 2008 I got an opportunity to get involved in DOC’s work setting up the stoat trapping network on Resolution Island in Dusky Sound of Fiordland and fell in love with conservation field work and found it difficult to give up the opportunity to explore Dusky Sound over the next 8 months.

I joined DOC’s Kakapo Recovery team as a ranger in 2009 at the start of the last epic breeding season that saw thirty-one kakapo added to the population, which was below 100 at the time. Twenty-six of these birds were hand-reared so there was a steep but rewarding learning curve. I was blown away by the commitment and knowledge that goes into saving this iconic species. 

The contrast between wildlife on these pest-free islands and the mainland is hard to imagine. Understanding the challenging and pioneering work that went into making them pest-free was one of the key motivators for me to move into island eradication work.  In 2012, I spent 12 months as a detection dog handler on Australia’s Subantarctic Macquarie Island (12,800ha), working as part of the hunting team following the baiting work to eradicate rabbits, mice and rats. There were quite a few kiwis on the team in this remote and truly wild place. I stayed on for an extra eight months as the hunting team leader in 2013. In 2014 the eradication success was announced, the largest for all three species in the world at the time. I was fortunate enough to come home via the Antarctic after our original pickup was cancelled because it got stuck in the ice.

My quick trip home turned into a lengthy adventure as our vessel the Aurora Australis vessel was called on to help retrieve passengers from the Akademic Shokalskiy that became stuck in the ice at Christmas 2013. Six weeks later I arrived in New Zealand, late for the start of my role as the Project Manager for the Antipodes Mouse Eradication.

I have been working on the planning for the eradication over the last year and a half.  The devil is in the detail because once we leave port we need to be self sufficient until the work is done.

The Antipodes eradication has some big challenges associated with it because of its remoteness, the weather, the lack of infrastructure on the island and significantly a lack of harbour for shelter when unloading and loading a ship.

It is great to see the level of support achieved for the project through the work of Gareth Morgan and the Morgan Foundation who achieved a substantial increase in awareness of the Subantarctic region and ran a public fundraising campaign in 2012 that will contribute significantly to the eventual cost of this project. Please keep following and supporting our work as we get closer to the eradication planned for winter in 2016.

We are driven to protecting the amazing wildlife on Antipodes Island which is recognised globally for outstanding biodiversity values. The island provides a breeding site for a large number of seabirds that range the vast Southern Ocean, as well as being home to some endemic insects  and also endemic ground birds such as parakeets, snipe and pipits.

Stephen and work mates on Macquarie Island during the pest eradication

Stephen and work mates on Macquarie Island during the pest eradication

 

Stephen down Antipodes Island.

Stephen down Antipodes Island.