5 Apr 2019

NZ among the best places for endangered species in the world

From Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan, 1:16 pm on 5 April 2019

New Zealand is one of the best places to preserve some of the most threatened species of wildlife there are.

New research lead by Island Conservation has drawn up a list of 107 islands around the globe that give endangered species the best chance to survive. The study revealed that New Zealand doesn't just have 5 of those islands, but our conservationists are world leaders in their field.

Kākāpō are currently found on three islands. Whenua Hou / Codfish Island, near Stewart island. Pukenui / Anchor Island in Fiordland. And Hauturu / Little Barrier Island in the Hauraki Gulf.

Kākāpō are currently found on three islands. Whenua Hou / Codfish Island, near Stewart island. Pukenui / Anchor Island in Fiordland. And Hauturu / Little Barrier Island in the Hauraki Gulf. Photo: Jake Osborne

Conversation biologist Dr James Russell told Jesse Mulligan the research was about trying to understand what some of the priority islands were and whether some of these countries could start looking at clearing the islands by 2020 or by 2030.

“We’ve essentially made a shopping list, if you like, of where we should be investing our efforts in the near future for island eradications.”

Islands have the size and isolation that effects everything on them, he says.

“These islands have this uniqueness as laboratories for evolution, but they have this weakness and frailty for their vulnerability at the same time.”

When you look at things on a global scale there are a number of islands with endangered species that are just not getting enough attention, he says.

French Polynesia is an example of this.

“There’s a bunch of bird species there, many in fact, that are in danger of blipping out, there’s less than a dozen.”

With island eradication, it’s a case of thinking global but acting local. The investment in eradication is about getting the community and the policy makers on side," he says.

“Just find that island in your patch and do what you can to preserve the species.

“More and more we’re taking interest in how humans feel and what they want to see on these islands.”

It's about taking a look at the social impacts and well as the environmental impacts.

Island Conservation try to step up and fill the gaps when countries aren’t doing it themselves.

“I don’t think they need a lot of help. I think they just need a little bit of help, a little bit of funding and a little bit of guidance, and they could really make some big wins for saving species from going extinct.

“I think we dream of a conservation global illuminati that might take all of the funding and pull it together and put it to the crises where it’s most needed immediately.”

For New Zealand, Dr Russell is optimistic.

"Most importantly we're having some really important discussions around predator free New Zealand at the moment, around issues like what we call a pest and why we do and don't call some things pests and not others.

"We're having good discussions around animal welfare and the rights of all of these animals that are involved. We're also just looking at all of the issues that people are raising so we can engage other groups such as iwi that have a lot of rich conservation opportunities on their land."

He says it's about working together with everyone towards a New Zealand that we all want to see in the future.

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