Regrowth thanks to possum efforts

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After years of possum eradication efforts, strong regrowth of native plants can be seen across Otago Peninsula – particularly at Okia Reserve, near Victory Beach.

This very positive sign is the result of a decade of work by hundreds of community volunteers, groups and local landowners, co-ordinated and led by the Otago Peninsula Biodiversity Group.

OPBG project manager Ursula Ellenberg said it was a testament to the work of a lot of dedicated people that native bush was recovering in areas such as The Pyramids, which used to be overrun with possums.

“It is lovely to see that regrowth occurring in these native bush areas, and on the cliffs,” she said.

To date, the OPBG and volunteers have removed more than 17,678 possums – making good progress towards the group’s commitment to eradicate possums from Otago Peninsula by 2023.

Volunteers are also involved in predator detection, trapping, environmental education and biodiversity monitoring.

Word of the group’s efforts has spread, and it recently welcomed a group of out-of-town volunteers, who helped to deploy 110 chew cards for predator detection and also assisted with track maintenance at Sandymount.

“It was great to have these very supportive visitors here with us to work on the increasingly important task of monitoring areas that have been cleared of possums,” Ms Ellenberg said.

“We are extremely grateful for their support, and are looking forward to a long-term collaboration.”

The OPBG is also grateful for the support of local groups and businesses, including EmbroidMe, which has sponsored free logos for hi-vis vest to keep volunteers safe in the field.

With 400 bait stations at 100m intervals in parts of the peninsula, the possums are nearly all gone.

“In the Okia Reserve area near Victory Beach, we are down to the last possums, but we need to find them and remove them to prevent numbers from growing again.”

At the reserve, chew cards are now placed at 50m intervals, ready to reveal the presence of any last possums ahead of the 2019 winter campaign.

“In autumn, the possums get very active and the juveniles are out and about, so we have more chance of detecting them,” Ms Ellenberg said.