'Biodiversity crisis': NZ has highest rate of endangered species on Earth

  • 29/01/2018

Labour is shooting for a pest-free Aotearoa by 2050, but experts are saying urgent action is needed now to avoid conservation catastrophe. 

Endangered species ambassador Nicola Toki told to the AM Show this morning she doesn't think people realise the danger pests pose to wildlife. 

"What I don't think most New Zealanders understand is that we have a biodiversity crisis...we actually have to get out there and get cracking."

Ms Toki says we have more than 4000 threatened species, which is the highest proportion in the world. 

In terms of what can be done to help, Ms Toki says community engagement with conservation has been a huge help in her work.

"When an entire community does their bit, the cumulative effect is very real."

She says taking action in small ways like reducing rat populations and planting trees in your community has a real tangible effect when birds such as kakapo come back into the ecosystem. 

"This is something we can actually get out there and do with our families and see the tangible results." 

As to what qualifies as a pest, Ms Toki says identifying them is easy. 

"The best way to describe it is New Zealand is the 'land without teeth', if it has four legs fur and teeth it never evolved here." 

This means that all of our natural wildlife has only developed defense mechanisms against flying predators and are completely helpless against land based predators like cats and stoats. 

Ms Toki says feral cats in particular are of major concern but doesn't think an outright can ban is needed. 

"I don't think we should say 'let's not have domestic cats'. But if you're gonna have them, have them responsibly. You know where they are and you keep them inside and you microchip them."

She also points out that cats who are abandoned or lost often have "terrible" lives in the wild, so reducing the wild cat populations is the best thing for both cat lovers and the environment. 

As well as being pest-free by 2050, the Labour government are aiming to "achieve eradication of all mammalian predators [not just possums, rats and stoats] from offshore island nature reserves by 2025"