It’s been five years since Shakespear Open Sanctuary achieved pest-free status by means of a strong focus on eliminating pests such as rats, mustelids, hedgehogs and possums, and the building of a 1.7km pest proof fence around the sanctuary.
This weekend, members of the Shakespear Open Sanctuary Society (SOSSI), Auckland Council parks staff and invited guests will gather for lunch to celebrate how far the open sanctuary has come; currently it has by far the highest visitor numbers of any sanctuary in the country.
According to Open Sanctuary senior ranger Matt Maitland, there is plenty to celebrate on December 3.
Among the milestones ticked off along the way are achieving the greatest reptile biodiversity on the Auckland mainland, the successful introduction and self-introduction of new species, including the grey faced petrel, fluttering shearwater and diving petrel, North Island robins and whiteheads. In addition, dotterels are now fledging as many as 10 chicks per year – prior to pest free status, no chicks fledged.
Species that were always present in the park are now thriving – this includes banded rail, pateke, a range of lizards, and tui.
The Little Spotted Kiwi will be introduced next year and Matt says over the next 10 years there will be regular reintroductions of new species, some of which are expected to “spill over” and establish elsewhere on the Coast.
“There is a network of safe locations for wildlife around the Hauraki Gulf which is working well and the sanctuary is now a real contributor to that,” Matt says.
He says constant vigilance is required to maintain pest free status and this is largely thanks to a huge core of volunteers who check the fence and tracking tunnels, bait stations and traps regularly.
Mice remain difficult to eradicate and there are occasional incursions by other pest species to deal with.
The activity that comes with large numbers of people in the park, as well as extreme weather events are also an ongoing challenge.
However, Matt says that perhaps the main thing, for the more than half a million visitors that go through the pest proof gates each year, is that the park is as it was, but better since pests were eliminated.
“People who have always loved the park can still go there but now it’s free of animal pests and the wildlife is more bountiful,” Matt says. “That way a larger number of people start to accept “the new norm” of what pest control can do. And perhaps imagine what predator free NZ could look like.”