Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Goodbye, Weasels! New Zealand to Wipe Out Its Invasive Predators

By Laura Geggel, Senior Writer | July 26, 2016 10:38am ET

The clock is ticking for the rats, possums and weasels that have invaded New Zealand over the past few hundred years. That's because the country plans to eradicate these invasive predators that threaten its native species, and has set the year 2050 as its goal to be free of these invasive pests, Prime Minister John Key said Monday (July 25).

Before humans landed in New Zealand less than 800 years ago, precious few mammals lived on the islands — a vibrant archipelago that provided a home for flightless birds, such as the kiwi, takahe­ and kakapo parrot, as well as geckos and lizard-like tuataras.

But with humans came invasive predators, mammals that continue to kill 25 million native birds every year; they also prey on the native lizards and tuataras, Key said. 

"While once the greatest threat to our native wildlife was poaching and deforestation, it is now introduced predators," Key said in a statement.

These introduced predators cost the New Zealand economy an estimated 3.3 billion New Zealand dollars ($2.3 billion) a year, he said. The costs stem partly from the crops these invasive species eat — for instance, rodents ate an estimated NZ$300 million ($211 million) in cereal and seed export earnings in 2013, a 2015 study in the journal BioScience found.

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