Thursday, April 25, 2024

Rare kiwi threatened by illegal pig release

One of Aotearoa’s rarest kiwi species, Rowi, are under threat from pigs illegally released in Westland Tai Poutini National Park, the Department of Conservation (DOC) said today.

DOC South Westland Operations Manager, Wayne Costello says around 25 pigs are thought to have been illegally placed in the Saltwater Forest area of the northern section of the park in July 2021.

“It’s incredibly irresponsible and jeopardises all the mahi that has gone into rowi conservation and the special values of the park,” Mr Costello said.

“Pigs wreak havoc for ground nesting birds, such as kiwi and their young, as they will corner, kill and eat kiwi and wreck their habitat through trampling and rooting. Now they’re just a small swim across a river into neighbouring rowi habitat.”

As well as the danger they pose to birds, pigs eat seedlings and young trees, ringbark mature trees, damage tracks and cause erosion, Mr Costello said. Pigs are a known vector for bovine TB so there is a risk for local farmers if these pigs were brought in from outside South Westland, he said.

(file image).

It is also illegal to release pigs anywhere. Pig populations expand very quickly as they have multiple offspring and no natural predators.

“A DOC team recently found fresh signs of pigs and a farmer has seen some on his boundary with the park. It seems there are now significant numbers of pigs scattered widely through the northern section of the park which is an ecological catastrophe,” Mr Costello says.

The statutory body with responsibilities for game animals and hunting, the Game Animal Council (GAC), has also condemned the release.

“The illegal release of any game animal is extremely disappointing and to release pigs so near to a critical kiwi habitat is particularly reckless,” GAC General Manager, Tim Gale said.

“Pigs are an adaptable species that can become established in an area quickly. While they are a valuable food resource for many communities, that is absolutely no justification for intentionally spreading them into a national park.”

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