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.

 

Hear Stephen Horn talk about the challenges of eradicating mice off the Antipodes Island

Stephen Horn down Antipodes Island.

Stephen Horn down Antipodes Island.

Stephen Horn at the Old Government Buildings, Wellington. All welcome. 6 – 7pm Lecture theatre 1.

The Million Dollar Mouse project saw New Zealander’s raise $1m to eradicate mice off the far flung Antipodes Islands. In winter 2016 a team of 13 people journeyed to Antipodes Island at the edge of the furious fifties to attempt the ambitious eradication. After 75 days, they returned home from this remarkable place.

Project Manager Stephen Horn took a team of 13 people to the Islands to complete this ambitious project. We invite you to hear Stephen share the adventure of ridding mice from one of the wildest and most remote parts of New Zealand.

Visit the FB page for more


 

Monitoring Results

Monitoring results will be published, as part of the Project Report, on the MDM website and the DOC website in Spring 2017 .

These early results will look at the effects the eradication had on non-target species.

Result monitoring from the eradication will be  published in 2018. This monitoring will determine whether the eradiation reached its target of removing mice from Antipodes Islands.

Antipodes Island parakeet. Photo by F.Cox

Antipodes Island parakeet. Photo by F.Cox

Antipodes pipit

Antipodes pipit. Banded as part of the monitoring

Antipodes Snipe Anchorage Bay. Photo by F.Cox

Antipodes Snipe Anchorage Bay. Photo by F.Cox

Reischek’s Parakeet. Photo by F.Cox

Reischek’s Parakeet. Photo by F.Cox

 

Antipodes Mouse Eradication Project debrief

Each pest eradication sits on the shoulders of those that preceded it

One of the key aspects of good project management is to review, record and pass on lessons for future projects. In this manner we continuously improve the way we do things. A team met late last week to discuss the different aspects of the Antipodes Mouse Eradication Project.  This proved to be very valuable.

Debrief team

Debrief team

Read more:

Island Pest Eradications

Eradications that paved the way

The Norfolk Guardian and the Evohe

A big thanks to the Norfolk Guardian and the Evohe crew from the Antipodes mouse eradication team for a safe return back to New Zealand.

“The boys on the Guardian worked extremely hard when we were unloading and loading their vessel with our equipment.” said Finlay Cox from the Antipodes mouse eradication team. “It was a pleasure to work with them and great to get to know them. They were a laugh and made us welcome on their vessel.  They even shared their ice cream!”

The Antipodes mouse eradication team returned back to New Zealand safely on the 6 August.

The Norfolk Guardian crew and MDM team

The Norfolk Guardian crew and MDM team

The Antipodes Island mouse eradication team return home

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Antipodes Island baiting. Photo by S. Horn

Saturday 6 August, both the Evohe and the Norfolk Guardian safely returned to NZ from the Antipodes, with the Antipodes mouse eradication team on board.

The first boat left NZ for the Antipodes back on the 23 May 2016 with the mission to eradicate mice from the Antipodes Islands.

Tony Preston, Department of Conservation, Murihiku Operations Manager shares a few words of congratulations to the teams efforts.

The detailed planning and careful execution using every window of good weather has paid off in the successful and safe delivery of two bait applications across the island.  

We are super proud of this team which includes two staff from Island Conservation and three from helicopter company Island Aerial Solutions.

The Million Dollar Mouse project shows the power of collaboration to achieve what only a decade ago seemed an insurmountable task, and provides lessons as we turn our attention to  the Predator Free New Zealand goal for 2050.  When we work together great things can be achieved.  Thanks heaps to very generous support from our partners: the New Zealand public,  Morgan Foundation, Island Conservation and WWF-New Zealand.

Read more from the Partners

Watch TVNZ feature the return of the team to Dunedin

No doubt the team will enjoying sleeping in a warm house rather than a flappy tent for the first time in nearly 10 weeks! But perhaps they may be missing those chorizo dinners….or maybe not!

Hut site

Hut and camp site Antipodes Island

Jason and Jose from Island Conservation

Jason and Jose from Island Conservation enjoy chorizo