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Partners celebrate the success

Pipit finding food. Photo by F. Cox

 

Tracking tunnel installers have lunch. Photo by P. Petchey

 

Conservation Minister, Hon Eugenie Sage with Navy crew on Antipodes Island

 

Moth monitoring light trap. Photo by H. Ricardo

 

Monitoring team leaving for Antipodes Islands 2018. Photo by F. Cox

 

The Alert Bay fingerpost and Fin Cox.

Department of Conservation

“After a long wait following the huge effort between 2012 and 2016 to make this project happen, we can finally celebrate success.” said Stephen Horn, DOC Antipodes Mouse Eradication Project Manager.

“It is satisfying to deliver on an initiative that we know now will have permanent benefits for one of the most special places in New Zealand. It is even more satisfying to have had such a ground swell of public support behind the work, from the people that rallied and raised money in 2012 to those who followed our progress closely in 2016 and sent messages of support, thank you and well done to you all for your participation and belief in the outcomes. We hope people have enjoyed getting to know the values of the Antipodes Islands and we look forward to building on the success of this project as we look towards the possibility of a pest-free New Zealand Subantarctic Area.”

 

The Morgan Foundation

“The Morgan Foundation is thrilled that the Million Dollar Mouse project has resulted in the successful eradication of mice from the Antipodes.” said Gareth Morgan, Founder of The Morgan Foundation.

” This ambitious initiative began back in 2012 with a public fundraising campaign that rallied New Zealanders’ support behind saving the endemic species of the Antipodes.  We were overwhelmed with support from the public and it showed the possibility of what these conservation partnerships between DOC and the public can achieve. It has demonstrated the importance of directly  engaging the public who are able to have a greater sense of ownership when their efforts are directly linked to the conservation work.”

 

WWF-New Zealand

“To have eradicated mice from the Antipodes Islands is the most incredible win for our environment.” said Livia Esterhazy, WWF-New Zealand CEO .

“This means that the wildlife of this unique part of the world will have a chance to recover and thrive, and we are looking forward to seeing the islands flourish. WWF New Zealand would like to congratulate everyone involved: from Stephen Horn and the team on the islands through to the individuals who helped fund the project.”

 

Island Conservation

“The removal of invasive species from island ecosystems is a proven way to protect biodiversity and prevent extinctions.” said Richard Griffiths, Project Director at Island Conservation.

“We are thrilled at having being able to collaborate on this monumental achievement to protect Antipode’s threatened species and look forward to partnering with the Department of Conservation on its next steps toward Predator-Free New Zealand.”

 

Antipodes parakeet. Photo by NZDF

 

Evening planning time 2016. Photo by F. Cox

 

Stephen Horn, DOC Project Manager Antipodes Mouse Eradication heading down to Antipodes Island.

 

Bait drop. Photo by F. Cox

 

Baiting. Photo by S.Horn

 

Antipodes Wandering Albatross. Photo by K.Walker

Mice free Antipodes!

Together we did it!

In a world-leading conservation effort, mice have been successfully eradicated from Antipodes Island in the New Zealand Subantarctic, Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage announced today.

Read the announcement here!

A huge thanks to everyone involved over the years.

helicopter baiting Antipodes

Southcoast baiting 2016

 

The mouse eradication team 2016

 

The 2018 monitoring team. Photo by F. Cox

Antipodes parakeet. Photo by NZDF

 

Antipodean albatross. Photo by K. Walker

 

Antipodes snipe. Photo by F. Cox

Ready for baiting 2016. Photo by S. Horn

 

Moth monitoring on Antipodes Island. Photo by F. Cox

 

Tui and Piri dressed smart and ready to go. Photo by C. Nanning

Team Depart Antipodes!

The monitoring team. Photo by F. Cox

Written by Juzah Zammit=Ross on 15th March 2018

After 23 days on the Antipodes Island the final days of the outcome monitoring trip are here. We are packing up the hut and buckets of gear and empty fuel containers are lined up at the derrick winch ready to be winched down to Hut Cove for pick up by chartered vessel the Evohe. Now it’s just a matter of waiting for the weather to calm down for the pickup and three-day voyage back to Dunedin.

The team have collected the 260 tracking tunnels from the field, pitfall and moth traps pack up. Distance sampling for terrestrial bird species has been completed and snipe encounters noted. The rodent detector dogs have searched high and low for mice and are looking forward to a well-deserved rest.  The monitoring team are also ready for a rest, the hummocky uneven ground, head high tussock and ferns and seabird burrows island make field work challenging. The data from the outcome monitoring has been collected and sent to the Island Eradication Advisory groups. Technical advisors will analyse the data and will determine the outcome of the mouse eradication. Watch this space to find out the result of this four year eradication project.

Ready to leave. Photo by Luke Padgett

Tracking tunnels packed up. Photo by F. Cox

We have become a close knit team and the hut has become a second home. The team have worked hard during the day and have spent the evenings bonding over Catan, cards and Ghost pepper hot sauce challenges. Friendships have been forged on this wild and beautiful Subantarctic island. Hopefully we can come back in the future and find the wildlife thriving.

The team successfully departed the island this morning and are due back on the mainland on Tuesday. The results will be posted on their return…watch this space!

Read more from Stuff 

Outcome monitoring on Antipodes Islands

 

As we arrived at the Antipodes Islands on the HMNZS Wellington on the morning of the 20th February, three Subantarctic pipit landed on the deck of the vessel. This was exciting to see, and the team looked forward to getting ashore and starting the result monitoring for the mouse eradication and the outcome monitoring to determine any changes in avian and invertebrate diversity and numbers.

Pipit finding food. Photo by F. Cox

Antipodes snipe. Photo by F. Cox

Antipodes parakeet. Photo by F. Cox

Monitoring of the four endemic / native terrestrial bird species has been done using two methods. Antipodes parakeet, Reischek’s parakeet and pipit (Antipodes subspecies) is monitored using distance sampling methodology. This entails slowly walking a transect, counting and measuring the distance from transect line using Range Finder. The transects are throughout the island in a variety of habitats from rocky coastline to high tussock lands on Mt Galloway. The cryptic and elusive Snipe (Antipodes subspecies) are being monitored using encounter rate methodology throughout the island by all members of the field team. It has been particularly exciting to see small fluffy snipe chick scuttling off through the ferns and megaherbs on our walks.

Theo Van Noort processing pitfall samples ready for analysis. Photo by F. Cox

Hayley Ricardo pinning moths to preserve them for identification. Photo by F. Cox

Entomologist Theo Van Noort has been monitoring invertebrates through pitfall trapping, hand collection and leaf litter sampling. And research technician Hayley Ricardo from Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research has been trapping moths as part of the Ahi Pepe MothNet project. Data collected from both sets of invertebrate monitoring will be compared with results from monitoring conducted prior to baiting during the mouse eradication in winter 2016.

Moth monitoring on Antipodes Island. Photo by F. Cox

 

Previous studies comparing invertebrates on Antipodes Island and the pest-free islands of Bollons and Archway, 1.5 km to north, found significant impacts from mice on Antipodes (Russell, 2012; Marris, 2000). These impacts include two large beetle species, Loxomerus n. sp and Tormissus guanicola, being wiped out from Antipodes Island but they are still present on Bollons Island. A mysterious weta has also been seen on Bollons previously but has never been caught or described and has never been seen on Antipodes main island. Without mice and with time these species should recover and disperse and hopefully the mysterious weta will one day return. Anecdotally the monitoring team have noticed the large number of caterpillars on the vegetation and flies which land on you whenever you stop for lunch and provide a tasty snack for pipits.

The outcome monitoring is an important way of assessing changes in diversity and density of native and endemic fauna on the island prior to and after the eradication attempt of mice on the Antipodes Islands. Who knows maybe a new invertebrate species might be discovered!

 

References

Marris, J.W.M. 2000: The beetle (Coleoptera) fauna of the Antipodes Islands, with comments on the impacts of mice; and an annotated checklist of the insect and arachnid fauna. Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand 30 (2): 169-195

Russell, J.C. 2012: Spatio-termporal patterns of introduced mice and invertebrates on Antipodes Island. Polar Biology 35: 1187-1195

RSPB volunteer on Antipodes

Written by Bea Ayling

I was over the moon when I found out that I had a volunteer place on the post-eradication monitoring trip to Antipodes. I’d first heard about Million Dollar Mouse at the International Island Invasives Conference in July 2017 in Dundee, Scotland, which I was attending as part of my ‘real-life’ role as Conservation Officer for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, (RSPB) Scotland.

I am based in the Orkney Islands, and stoats were seen for the first time there in 2010. Being outside their native range, we are worried about the impacts stoats will have on Orkney’s native wildlife, as seen in New Zealand. We have an endemic subspecies of vole (the Orkney vole) and most of our breeding birds nest on the ground and are susceptible to stoat predation. We are now in the process of setting up an eradication project, and I am currently on sabbatical with DOC and MDM to learn more about eradications to ensure we have success in Orkney.

Bea checking monitoring tunnels at Perpendicular Head, Antipodes Island

On Antipodes I am helping with placing and checking the monitoring tunnels for any signs of mice to hopefully confirm their absence as well as monitoring the native birds: Antipodes parakeet, Reischek’s parakeet, Antipodes pipit and Antipodes snipe, to help understand how these species are doing post-eradication. In Orkney, I am designing the monitoring programme so this experience is invaluable to me.

RSPB are also involved in a number of other eradication projects including a mouse eradication at Gough Island in the south Atlantic, which is a very similar project to MDM in Antipodes, but the island is more than 4 times as big. Like Antipodes, mice were introduced by sailors, but unlike Antipodes, the mice have evolved to be larger and have discovered the taste of Tristan albatross chick flesh. My job on Antipodes is to gather as much information for the Gough Island team as possible to help inform the project.

Bea at work in Orkney, surveying geese

We are now nearing the end of the post-eradication trip to Antipodes and it has been a rollercoaster experience I will never forget, from the exhaustion of fighting through 6ft tall impenetrable vegetation to the sounds of island birds at night and getting to know the team.

Thanks to everyone who has made this possible!

 

Antipodes at night. Photo by F. Cox

Antipodes archaeological survey 2018

Written by Peter Petchey

Peter beside a DSIR (Department of Scientific and Industrial Research) magnetic survey mark

The Alert Bay fingerpost and Fin Cox. The fingerposts were erected by the Marine Department New Zealand Government in 1894 to direct any shipwrecked sailors to the Castaway Depot

Theo standing beside one of the sealers’ hut fireplaces

The Antipodes Islands have a significant but sparse archaeological heritage: hard to find in the low but dense vegetation and vulnerable to the regular landslips that continuously slough off the thin overmantle of peaty soil. The 2018 archaeological survey has two main tasks: revisit all known sites and record them in more detail, and search for any other sites that may still exist. The archaeological sites on the islands relate to three main periods: the sealing era (1805 to 1810, with a small number of later visits); the castaway era (the castaway depot from 1886 to 1927, with shipwrecks in 1893 and 1908); and the modern scientific management era (the first scientist to visit was Andreas Reischek in 1888, with major investigations from the 1950s to the present day). Maori voyagers may also have visited, but no archaeological evidence has ever been found.

The south coast campsite with Theo (entomologist), Brian and Carol (conservation dog handlers)

On the way down the south coast escarpment, following a recent slip. The thin layer of peat regularly sloughs off the underlying volcanic rock, sweeping away any archaeological sites (and anything else) in the way

Of the known visitors, least is known about the sealers, as theirs was a secretive industry within which knowledge of any new sealing grounds was closely guarded, and few individuals left personal records. Rowley Taylor (2006) has estimated that there was a maximum of 86 men living ashore from November 1805 to February 1806 (the largest human population the Antipodes have ever known); the question now is where were they living? Two campsites are known: one on the north coast at Hut Cove where the Castaway Depot is located; and one on the south coast which is the most intact sealing site known on the islands (and possibly in all of New Zealand).

A panoramic view of the south coast, with the Spirit of Dawn castaway cave and the sealers’ camp marked

This week Theo (the expedition entomologist) and I walked to the south coast of the island and climbed down the coastal escarpment down to the sealers’ camp. Located in a sheltered spot on the side of a narrow ridge just back from the shoreline, three hut fireplaces are visible amongst the ferns and tussock, but there is space where another four or five huts could easily have stood. The intact fireplaces raise the question of what were the sealers burning to keep warm? There are no trees on the Antipodes, but plenty of peat (some of which is almost a lignite); penguin eggs and seal cooked over a smoky coal fire anyone?

The sealers are estimated to have taken 330,000 seals skins from the Antipodes in just five years, but walking around the island today it is evident that while the fur seal populations are on the rise (they now occupy the Spirit of Dawn castaways’ cave: a story for another day) they are nowhere near those levels. Five years of plunder two centuries ago still has repercussions today: there are lessons to be learned here. The natural world can take centuries to recover from human impact, if it ever does.

 

Biggest mouse hunt underway!

 

Monitoring work is well underway on Antipodes Island.

After departing the mainland almost two weeks ago, the team has covered a substantial part of the island, crossing a range of habitats in this biggest of mouse hunts. While the terrain is difficult, and the vegetation thick, we’ve got a range of tools up our sleeves that will draw any interlopers into the open.

So far, we’ve set up 25 tracking tunnel lines, with ten tunnels each. These tunnels are set up with an inked tracking card and baited with peanut butter. Any mouse in the area looking to take a nibble will pay for it in footprints with the ink pads capturing the signature of any creature that passes through. Mice prints are quite distinctive, so we’ll be able to tell them apart from anything else that fancies a peanut butter snack.

Tracking tunnel team have lunch. Photo by P. Petchey

Tui and Piri dressed smart and ready to go. Photo by C. Nanning

In addition to our peanut butter ink tracks, we’ve had specially trained rodent detector dogs and their human handlers scouring the island looking for signs of mice. So far, they’ve covered most of the northern part of the island with the remainder on their sniff list scheduled for the next two weeks.

The Conservation Dogs Programme started in the late 1990s and has grown into a world leading conservation tool. A recent partnership with Kiwibank has boosted capability and provided extra funds to expand the capacity of the programme with four new dog handler teams. It is also great to have a dog handler from the Auckland Council  involved, to share knowledge and assist on the mouse hunt. Auckland Council are leaders in biosecurity and have a strong working relationship with DOC, partnering in Treasure Islands Campaign to protect conservation islands in the Hauraki Gulf.

 

     

First update from Antipodes

 

 

The monitoring team met at the Southern Island Quarantine Store, where our gear including personal gear, monitoring equipment and food, was quarantined by DOC staff.
The team comprises 7 staff monitoring for mice and species change, an archaeologist, 2 dog handlers and 3 rodent detecting dogs (Piri, Pipi and Tui). We departed from Dunedin at 6pm on Sunday 18th February on board the HMNZS Wellington, destination the Antipodes Island. The Minister for Conservation Hon Eugenie Sage and media joined us on board the vessel for the journey to the island. Life on board the Navy vessel included seabird watching, sunbathing on the helicopter deck and eating way too much delicious food.

After a surprisingly calm trip we arrived at Antipodes Island early on the morning of Tuesday 20th and prepared to go ashore. After squeezing into our immersion suits with difficulty, we travelled ashore via Navy Ribs and Zodiacs. Landing at Hut Cove we were welcomed by Kath Walker and Graeme Elliot (Albatross researchers) plus fur seals and moulting penguins. Using the derrick winch, we transported our gear up the 20m cliff from the cove to the hut. All the gear was quarantined for a second time in the hut, before being packed away. It was a privilege to share our first night on the island with Hon Eugenie Sage and her secretary Kayla Kingdon-Bebb. A tight crowd around the table to share some chocolate self-saucing pudding, what a way to end the first day.

Getting into immersion suit

Rodent detection dogs

Antipodes Mouse Eradication. Was it successful?

helicopter baiting Antipodes

Baiting the south coast of Antipodes Island, 2016

After 18 long months, the wait is finally over. In just over one week’s time, a team is heading back to the Antipodes Islands to discover the outcome of the Million Dollar Mouse project.

Million Dollar Mouse is one of the largest ever attempts to eradicate mice anywhere in the world. Mice can be voracious predators, and with Antipodes Island being internationally recognised as a World Heritage site for outstanding natural values – including being home to unique and vulnerable birds, insects and plant species – the resident mice estimated at 200,000 needed to go.

The Department of Conservation(DOC) worked with funding partners the Morgan Foundation, WWF-New Zealand, Island Conservation and the public to deliver an eradication project in winter 2016. Now, 18 months and almost two mice breeding seasons later, DOC is able to determine whether the eradication was successful.  As with any eradication, success cannot be guaranteed.

Our monitoring team will spend three weeks scouring the island for signs of mice and with three conservation dogs recruited to the task, we’re sure it’ll be a very thorough search indeed.

The New Zealand Defence Force are helping out with Operation Endurance by transporting the 10 strong monitoring team down to the Antipodes Islands.

Watch this space for live updates from the island and follow our journey.