Scientists from Manaaki Whenua's Wildlife Ecology and Management Team are collaborating with the Taranaki Regional Council, Department of Conservation, and Taranaki Mounga Project on a research project to investigate how invasive mustelids (i.e., ferrets, stoats, and weasels) move around the landscape.
The project is part of 'Towards Predator Free Taranaki' which is New Zealand's largest rural predator removal scheme. It is a rural operation covering around 270,000 hectares between New Plymouth and Egmont National park and involves the help of hundreds of rural residents who are keen on trapping mustelids to protect native wildlife. This video about the scheme was produced by Taranaki Regional Council:
Recently, Pablo Garcia-Diaz, Chris Niebuhr, and Oscar Pollard travelled to Taranaki to capture and collar mustelids. Their main objective is to understand whether mustelids living in the vast ring-plains of Taranaki can move into Egmont National Park, where the Taranaki Mounga environmental restoration programme is taking place.
Researchers collaborated with landowners and were able to catch and collar four stoats in farmlands surrounding Egmont National Park. The images below taken by Chris and Pablo show the trapping, collaring (by Chris) and release of a stoat.
Telemetry methods allow the researchers to track the position of the collared stoats and then use the data to show how the animals use the landscape. The field data will be combined with computer models to assess the chances that stoats inhabiting the ring-plains of Taranaki will move on and settle within the boundaries of Egmont National Park. The researchers are also interested in whether the opposite occurs and the mustelids move out of the National Park and onto the ring-plain.
Towards Predator-Free Taranaki is supported by $11.7 million from the Government's Predator-Free 2050 Ltd. It is being delivered around Mt Taranaki in different stages and involves residents, community groups, Department of Conservation, Taranaki Mounga Project, Manaaki Whenua, schools, iwi and the three district councils in the region.