CAMPBELL ISLAND

2001 RAT ERADICATION PROJECT

 

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Campbell Island cliffs on west coast

In June 2001 the New Zealand Department of Conservation embarked on the world's most ambitious rodent eradication project. The plan was to eradicate completely the 11,300 hectare island of the Norwegian Rat which had been accidentally introduced  shortly after the islands discovery in 1810. The rats have decimated the wildlife of the island with at least three landbirds made extinct and several seabirds now no longer found on the main island.

The project leader is Southlander Pete McClelland shown at right who has previously led successful rat eradication campaigns on 3 islands near Stewart Island to the south of New Zealand. He is shown holding the projects "Rat" mascot.

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Campbell Island is situated 700 km south of New Zealand's mainland and is a large sub-Antarctic island. Shown above is Perseverance Harbour with the New Zealand weather station at right. This station has been unmanned since 1995 but has been specially refitted for the expedition.

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Campbell Island has a lush undergrowth which plays home to may birds and marine mammals. Most of them such as the petrels shown at left nest on the ground and are thus very prone to rat predation.

The project involves 19 persons, 2 ships, 5 helicopters, 120 tonnes of cereal pellets laced with rat poison and has a budget of $2.6 million. All of that may be wasted if any rats escape the teams efforts and manage to survive and bread another generation of Campbell Island Norwegian Rat.

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The main support vessel is the "Jenka" which normally serves as a supply vessel to the Chatham Islands. It is shown above in Timaru Harbour on Friday 22nd June loading the last project supplies for Campbell Island.

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Aviation fuel for the Helicopters on the Timaru Wharf .

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Cargo to be loaded on board "Jenka" in Timaru Harbour warehouses.

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Protech helicopter hoppers for dispersal of rat poison.

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The "Jenka" at Timaru.

She is registered at Marstal in Denmark although her normal work is between the New Zealand mainland and the Chatham Islands.

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Looking into the hold of the "Jenka" being loaded at Timaru. She left Timaru on the 22nd of June. The other support vessel is the Bluff based "Marine Countess" which left Bluff on the 9th June with an advanced party.

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This view shows two Otago Helicopters pilots Bryan Beck and Brendon Wilson planning their work with helicopters Otago owner Graeme Gale before their two helicopters flew south to Campbell Island via an Island hopping route.

 

Another of the pilots involved is Peter Garden from Southland shown at right prior to his departure.  A total of 5 helicopters is involved. There are 3 bell jet ranger helicopters which will spread the bait and two larger B2 Squirrel aircraft used to unload the vessels and position the supplies to depots around the island. One of the larger helicopters returned to Invercargill after the main unloading was completed.

The five helicopters  flew south to Campbell Island on June 28th leaving Invercargill about 10am and arriving on the island just before 4pm.

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It is expected that a total of 150 hours of flying time will be required and this means that in winter with weather delays it is expected that the team will have to remain on the island for at least 3 months. Winter time was chosen as the optimum time when food sources are scarce for the rats and also a time when many marine wildlife are absent from the island.

follow ups will be done for the next three years before the situation is reassessed and the island can be declared rat free.

Philatelic covers from this project are available and can be seen here.


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