ETH 218: Possums, Stoats and Weasels...Oh My!


Manage episode 282233761 series 2820627
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New Zealand is known as a land of extensive wilderness and pristine ecosystems, but, as with pretty much every single other natural habitat on this planet, it isn’t without its issues. These isolated islands have got some pretty big problems being caused by some very little animals.

Before Maori settlement in the early to mid-1300s New Zealand’s two big islands and numerous surrounding smaller islands were completely human-free. Since our species arrived, the country has seen its (largely endemic) bird population plummet, with numerous near and complete extinctions of some seriously amazing species, including all nine species of moa - a giant, flightless bird that reached heights of up to 3.6 metres, weighed up to 250kg and laid 4kg eggs, and the giant Haast eagle - the largest eagle to have ever lived, with talons reaching 8cm, a wingspan of up to 3 metres and standing at a metre tall.

Throughout history, New Zealand’s native species have faced many threats - overhunting, land use changes and habitat destruction - but in the modern day, the most pressing threat to New Zealands bird, lizard and insect life are invasive predators. Not only is the wildlife suffering, but the natural habitats are too - reduced bird populations means less seed spreading and less pollination, and habitat health is declining as a result.

These predators have been introduced both accidentally and purposefully, sometimes purposefully to try and remove the accidentally introduced ones. But, the NZ government, in collaboration with Predator Free NZ, have set an ambitious target of removing all invasive predators by 2050 - Predator Free 2050 - it’s got a good ring to it right?! This may sound like one of the world’s most ambitious conservation projects due to the predator populations being absolutely huge, but with a massive amount of community and stakeholder support, and some amazing scientific innovation, it might just be possible and in some areas and for some species, it’s already working. Listen as Wildlife Biologist Hannah Mulvany speaks with Jessi Morgan, CEO of Predator Free NZ, about the conservation battle the country is fighting, and how they are getting on.

Music sourced from

Bird song provided by the New Zealand Department of Conservation (DOC)

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