Conservation dogs sniff out trouble as yachting fans flock to islands

The potential risk more America’s Cup spectators bring to pest free islands in the Hauraki Gulf is being tackled head-on by conservation dogs from DOC and Auckland Council with the support of Kiwibank.

The Hauraki Gulf has 47 pest-free islands which are home to threatened native species including takahē, Coromandel brown kiwi, tīeke/saddleback, pōpokotea/whitehead, tūturuatu/shore plover and pāteke/brown teal.

Rats getting established on these islands would be devastating to the vulnerable bird populations.

DOC Pest Detection Dog Ranger Hannah Johnston says an increased number of rangers and dog handlers will be present on the islands during America’s Cup race days to detect any pests spectators may bring in from their boats and/or cargo.

Teams of dog handlers will be based on Motutapu, Rangitoto and Motuihe. Spectators hoping to catch views from these islands will be met by rangers and conservation dogs to double check gear and vessels of any pests.

“Through the support of Kiwibank, who are our Conservation Dogs Programme national partner and also an exclusive supplier to Emirates Team New Zealand, we were able to increase our numbers of pest dog handlers to deal with the high numbers of island visitors during the America’s Cup period.

“Conservation dogs are a brilliant tool for advocacy and raising awareness of the importance of keeping pests off the Hauraki Gulf Islands and they are a tool that can be utilised if any incursions occur.”

The Conservation Dogs Programme uses highly trained dogs and their handlers to detect New Zealand’s protected species or unwanted pests. Well trained dog-handler teams have successfully been used for conservation for more than 40 years.

DOC Senior Biodiversity Ranger David Wilson says it is great to see people out and about during these exciting times.

“But it’s extremely important we do not put threatened wildlife at risk by carrying unwanted pests or other threats, such as pet cats and dogs, to these sanctuaries. The Conservation Dogs Programme will help us keep these islands predator free and safe for our protected species.”

When visiting pest-free islands people are strictly prohibited from bringing with them any pets and must check their gear for any pests such as rats or insects.

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