Towards Predator-Free Taranaki's "zero possum" project was a New Zealand-first as it set out not to simply control possum numbers but to eradicate them from a 4,500 hectare area including 2,300 hectares of the Kaitake Range, 2,000 hectares of Kaitake farmland and Oākura town.
With rivers acting as natural barriers on either side of this zero possum zone, the main highway for possums to enter is through a strip of forest at Pukeiti. Using technology developed by Zero Invasive Predators (ZIP) we have set up an extensive trap barrier to stop incursions. Remote reporting traps have been placed every 10m in four lines – using a total of 1300 traps.
When a trap goes off, the team receives a notification so they know which trap to check.
Other tools and technologies we’ve used include cameras, possum detection dogs, thermal imaging monoculars and a “lean detection network” of about 180 traps within the Kaitake Range itself.
Two years on into the project and the barrier is catching one or two possums a month, meaning we are extremely close to the zero possum target. In fact, in and around Oākura town we believe possums have successfully been eradicated. Read project manager Toby Shanley's latest update here.
The Kaitake and Oākura community won a 2019 Taranaki Environmental Award for Environmental Action in the Community, highlighting residents’ outstanding efforts to control predators and restore native biodiversity by working together.
Seen or heard a possum in the Oākura-Kaitake area?
We want to know! Please report it by calling 0800 736 222 or go to www.trc.govt.nz/possum.
If you’re trapping at home, register with the online database Trap.NZ, via its website or app. Then record all your catches and also your trap checks (even when nothing has been caught). This makes Trap.NZ a source of valuable data tracking the region’s efforts and identifying gaps.