WELLINGTON, June 23 (Xinhua) -- New Zealand Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage on Saturday announced funding for the first step in the country's "most ambitious island pest eradication".
Speaking at the Forest and Bird's 2018 Conference, the minister committed 2 million NZ dollars (1.38 million U.S. dollars) over the next three years to complete planning, including field trials, towards making sub-Antarctic Auckland Island predator free.
"This is an ambitious project on the 46,000-hectare Auckland Island and a major step towards the goal of New Zealand being predator free by 20150," Sage said.
"Eradicating these pests from New Zealand's fifth-largest island would see Auckland Island become the country's largest pest-free island," said the minister.
The funding will allow greater understanding of the scale and complexity of the problem and help guide decisions about eradicating pigs, cats and mice from Auckland Island, she said.
Any decision to proceed will require a long-term commitment of resources and effort, Sage said, adding that early estimates suggest the potential cost of eradication may be in the order of 40 to 150 million NZ dollars (27.6 to 34.5 million U.S. dollars) over eight to 10 years.
Introduced pigs and cats have devastated Auckland Island's native wildlife and plants. Mice are also a problem by competing for food with native birds and attacking seabird chicks.
Most of the native birds that were once abundant on Auckland Island have disappeared from the main island and now exist only on the surrounding pest-free islands. These include the Auckland Island snipe and teal.