Antipodes Island mouse poison drop begins

Helicopter crews have setled on the island for the winter (Million Dollar Mouse)
Helicopter crews have setled on the island for the winter (Million Dollar Mouse)

There's been a breakthrough in a major mouse-killing operation on New Zealand's remote sub-Antarctic Antipodes Islands.

An uncharacteristic gap in the typically awful weather of the Southern Ocean has given helicopters crews a two-day window to spread 32 tonnes of poison across 95 percent of the islands.

A Department of Conservation (DOC) team, funded by philanthropist Gareth Morgan, is working to eradicate 200,000 mice on the islands. The rampant mice population, likely introduced in a shipwreck, threatens unique wildlife, including the meat-eating Antipodes Island parakeet.

DOC's Tony Preston says the team have been lucky to hit a break in the weather.

"The team are really upbeat, they had a fantastic, really, really long day yesterday, but they are really happy with their progress so far."

The project was planned to take anywhere from two to five months because of the unpredictable weather, Mr Preston says.

The team will wait now for at least another two weeks for the mice to find the bait, before running a second application of poison to be completely sure of eradication.

They won't know whether it's been successful until a monitoring operation in two years' time -- overlooking a single pregnant mouse could scupper the entire project.