Animals

New Zealand Declares War on Rats

The government has announced plans to eradicate the rodents, along with possums and stoats, by 2050.

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Targeting an animal that is a problem all over the world, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said his government has set a goal of 2050 for the year the nation rids itself of rats. The same initiative will target other animals such as possums and stoats the country deems pests.

The animals "kill 25 million of our native birds every year, and prey on other native species such as lizards and, along with the rest of our environment, we must do more to protect them," said Key in a statement, adding that the animals cost his country an estimated $3.3 billion per year.

The government will invest new money -- in addition to existing pest control expenditures -- for the initiative and will also work with private sector interests and local governments.

"Our ambition is that by 2050 every single part of New Zealand will be completely free of rats, stoats and possums," Key said.

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According to the Guardian, New Zealand already employs aerial poison drops, traps, ground bait, and hunters to handle the problem.

The aerial drops -- deployed in hard-to-reach locations -- use pellets of the pesticide 1080, which brings about failure of the heart and central nervous system of the target animals, according to the Taranaki Daily News, which also says the pellets are toxic to deer and dogs and that their use has not entirely been welcomed by local communities.

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"The biggest challenge will be the rats and mice in urban areas," a University of Auckland conservation emeritus professor of conservation told the Guardian. "For this project to work it will need the urban communities to get on board. Possum extermination will be the easiest because they only breed once a year and there are already effective control methods in place."

Nathan Guy, New Zealand's Primary Industries Minister, outlined why the move would benefit farmers.

"Possums and ferrets are the main carriers of bovine TB, which is a very destructive disease for cattle and deer," Guy said.

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"New Zealand's unique native creatures and plants are central to our national identity," said New Zealand Conservation Minister Maggie Barry. "They evolved for millions of years in a world without mammals and as a result are extremely vulnerable to introduced predators, which kill around 25 million native birds every year."

"Now is the time for a concerted long-term nationwide effort to rid ourselves of the introduced rats, stoats and possums that have placed so much of our natural heritage in jeopardy," she added.

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