New Zealand plans to eradicate all rats and other predators from the country by 2050 to protect native birds. In an effort to preserve birdlife in the country, Predator Free Miramar, a non-profit volunteer community has kicked off the nationwide rat extermination plan. The non-native and invasive rats have been blamed for the extinction of New Zealand’s local birds. The government is expecting this movement to be completed by 2050.
The country is facing a severe rat problem for many years, ‘Norway rats’ and ‘ship rats’ are well known for eating birds and other small animals. Images of rats pouncing on the eggs and babies of birds have been widely circulated. It is believed that at one point New Zealand was losing around 26 million birds a year to predators.
In addition to ship and Norway rats, a growing problem of Pacific rats is also something to worry about. According to the Department of Conservation, these rats are introduced as pests and challenge the survival of long-term species. The DOC describes ship rats or Rattus rattus as the most common rat found in the country. It is smaller in size as compared to its European cousins.
The Predator Free Group of Wellington city consists of 36 amateur rat catchers turned into exterminators. They also have a GPS app that guides them through bushes by using cameras set up at hotspots, after every kill updates are given on the app. They simply use peanut butter, poison, coil traps and toxin-laced bait boxes to trap the rats. Another public organisation called Predator Free 2050 Ltd was established to direct public and private funding into regional eradication strategy testing projects.
In a similar drive to eradicate rats, in November 2020, a school on Stewart Island organized a competition to maximize the number of rats exterminated on the island to preserve birdlife. Children as young as five years of age competed in the challenge and around 40 children managed to kill 600 rats in 100 days combined. A series of awards were also distributed after the end of the challenge.