Richard Griffiths led the eradication project on Hauturu-o-toi to remove kiore nearly twenty years ago in 2004. Now he has joined the Hauturu Supporters Trust as a Trustee. He recollects the experience of removing rodents from the island back in 2004 and the conservation opportunities that have arisen from this incredible project. 

In 2004 the eradication of kiore (or Pacific rat), the only rodents ever to reach Hauturu, was the largest project of its type in the world. 

It was a daunting task for a young Richard Griffiths. It was his first large eradication project and he felt the weight of responsibility. 

“Rodent eradications rely on meticulous planning and to be successful all ingredients need to be in place,” he says.  “To have failed on Hauturu would have been a disaster.”

However, he had incredible support from the Department of Conservation’s Island Eradication Advisory Group and from staff from within Auckland Conservancy. 

“The challenge was to ensure that we put bait into every territory of every rat on the island – no mean feat when you consider how steeply dissected the island is,” he says.  

Ultimately, Richard and the project team delivered the miracle the island needed and Hauturu was declared rat free in 2006. 

“Hauturu is fascinating because it’s now on a recovery pathway that might take hundreds of years to play out,” he explains. 

“For hundreds of years the composition of Hauturu’s forests have been modified through predation of seeds and seedlings. There are species of trees absent from Hauturu but present on other northern islands that escaped the introduction of rats and it makes you wonder if they were once present on Hauturu. The island’s seabird populations are recovering after centuries of decline.” 

One of the roles the Hauturu Supporters Trust has played and can play in the future is to support work to monitor those changes, and to learn more about them.

Richard says: “If we eventually realise the vision of a predator-free New Zealand, Hauturu could help us predict some of the changes we might see.” 

“While there have been one or two scares following shipwrecked boats washing up on the coast, no rats have been detected on the island since 2004. The island benefits from the world-class biosecurity system enforced by DOC,” says Richard. “There is no doubt about it, maintaining the quality of biosecurity is critically important. We also need to continue to educate boat owners about the risks and consequences and how to address them.”

He says the removal of cats and kiore opened up a number of opportunities to reinstate species formerly present on the island, some of which have yet to be realised. 

While the North Island subspecies of the  hākuwai (snipe) is no longer with us, there are sub-species in places like the Chathams, that could be reintroduced. 

“These are species that play important ecological roles and if we want the island to reach its full potential as one of New Zealand’s most intact and diverse ecosystems we need to look at reinstating them.”

“It’s a living laboratory and the opportunities are exciting.”




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