Until June 2009, the islands of Ipipiri were infested with introduced pests including rats, mice and stoats. They were gnawing through tents on Urupukapuka Island to get to campers’ food; eating native birds and their eggs; and destroying the bush by eating native plant seeds. In winter of that year, the Department of Conservation eradicated all rats, mice, and stoats from the seven main islands of the eastern Bay of Islands.
The islands have enjoyed pest-free status since then, which has allowed our wildlife and bush to thrive. With Aotearoa’s target of Predator Free 2050 these islands provide a valuable example of maintaining pest-free islands close to the mainland with the hope that the learnings can be applied across the country.
Our pest-free status provides the essential foundation our ecological restoration work is built upon, but it is constantly under threat and requires significant ongoing work to maintain.
At the closest point the islands of Ipipiri lie just 600 metres off the coast of the mainland, easily within the swimming range of both rats and stoats.
To reduce the likelihood of pests swimming across, Project Island Song works with landowners, agencies, and other community groups to co-ordinate mainland pest control across a 3,000 hectare buffer zone on the adjacent mainland. The local community here is seeing an improvement in ecological health because of this pest control – so much so they have named the mainland pest control project Te Tangi o te Ata (the Dawn Chorus).
Pest control of varying types along this “buffer” is managed and funded by a variety of groups and individuals on private and public land. If you live in the area you can help our local biodiversity by managing pests at home. Check out the following sites on how you can get started:
The islands of Ipipiri are the most visited pest-free islands in New Zealand, with over 100,000 visitors on ferry trips per year, as well as numerous private boats and other tour operators.
This allows huge numbers of people to experience the joy of our returning wildlife, but also creates a major risk of visitors accidentally bringing pests with them.
If you are planning to visit the islands, please help to keep our vulnerable wildlife safe by checking out our Biosecurity Checklist before you go:
Despite our best efforts in mainland pest control and biosecurity education, a small number of pest incursions do still happen with about 4 to 8 incursions a year. These come from both pests swimming to the islands as well as people accidentally transporting them in their boats, bags and equipment.
Every incursion represents a major risk to Project Island Song and all we’ve achieved so far – rats, stoats, and cats will quickly decimate vulnerable bird populations if left undetected. We have seen this happen in other pest-free sanctuaries around the country.
This means it is vital that we detect any pest incursion as quickly as possible. To make sure this is the case, we undertake constant monitoring across the islands to pick up any sign of pests.
• Setting and monitoring an extensive network of traps across all the islands
• Monitoring tracking tunnels with inkpads to record any unwanted footprints
• Regular visits by conservation dogs – highly-skilled animals that are each trained by their handlers in detecting and tracking any sign of a specific pest group. These dogs are the only dogs allowed onto the islands’ public conservation land.
• Visual monitoring by our team and others, to report any pest sighting or evidence of pest predation
If you have seen a pest on the islands, please call the island pest detection hotline immediately:
When a pest incursion is detected, we quickly mobilise a skilled team and extra resources including more traps, tracking cards, and tunnels laid in the area, as well as urgent visits from the relevant conservation dog, to locate and catch the pest animal.