A heroic doggie pair and their human are voyaging over the ocean on a pest-control mission this week.
Rodent-detecting dogs Tui and Pipi, their (human) handler Brian Shields and a pest monitoring team are heading to Antipodes Islands to check the subantartic island for mice, wrapping up a long-term eradication project. These islands are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
A member of Auckland Council's biosecurity team and his 'working pair' are taking their Pest Free Auckland expertise offshore to support the environmental project, Million Dollar Mouse.
The main Antipodes Island has suffered from mice for over a century, with an estimated mice population of 200,000 before the eradication project was launched.
The pest threatens the Antipodes’ biodiversity, preying on invertebrates; competing for food with the island’s endemic land bird species – including the pipit, parakeet and snipe. They also eat the eggs and chicks of seabirds such as penguins and albatross who use the island as a life raft.
Mouse versus dog: The final showdown
In June 2016, on the back of years of planning and fundraising, 65.5kg of rodent bait containing toxin brodifacoum was distributed by helicopter using bait-spreading buckets over a treatment area of 2045ha.
Predator Free NZ declared the island ‘mouse-free’ in October 2017, depending on this final revisit and the doggie’s sniff test. Tui and Pipi will scour the island for any mice presence, accompanied by the human team using ink tracking cards, wax tags and chew cards.
Of the pair, Tui is a seasoned, twelve-year mice sniffer, while nosey-in-training Pipi is being brought along for teaching and back-up. The dogs will set off sailing the Southern sea from Dunedin aboard the navy ship HMS Wellington.
The mice eradication will enable the invertebrate population to flourish, Antipodean Albatross to raise chicks without mice molestation and endemic bird species to forage and nest safely.