Rat expert visits restoration project

It’s not often a world-renowned expert in pest management, specialising in rats, visits a local school.

That’s exactly what happened last week when New York-based urban rodentologist Dr Bobby Corrigan took a day out from presenting duties at the annual conference for The Pest Management Association of New Zealand, and visited the Otara Creek Restoration project in Botany South.

Corrigan is considered the authority in rodent control and says more effective extermination methods are rapidly evolving. Rats can become immune to conventional poisons so to avoid a ‘Ratsputin’ situation he favours the use of non-toxic baits to alleviate damage to the environment and the use of dry ice to release lethal Co2 gas.

The project is an initiative run in conjunction with Pest Free Howick with assistance from students from Sancta Maria. Thanks to funding from the Howick Local Board, and co-ordinated by Lorelle Stranaghan and Niklas Erikson, a biosecurity expert from Auckland Council.

Left in neglect after the construction of Te Irirangi Drive and other urban developments over the past 20 years, noxious plants such as woolly nightshade along with vermin became entrenched.

‘Rat Man’ Dr Bobby Corrigan pictured with Niklas Erikson, a biosecurity expert from Auckland Council. Picture Staff

Since the program’s inception in 2015, there has been a significant reduction of pests by way of trapping and the removal of pest-friendly invasive plant species. The region’s ancient flora is on the way to being revived after the planting of 12,000 trees, comprising a mix of native’s such as manuka and kanuka.

Times reporter Jim Birchall was invited to Sancta Maria College to get a first-hand look at developments and progress in the neglected creek area, straddled between Ti Irirangi Drive and Chapel Road.

Unfortunately (or is that, fortunately) for Dr. Corrigan, no local examples of Rattus Norvegicus, also known as the Norway rat, were to be seen, highlighting the excellent work done thus far.

In future, Eriksen is hoping to share the trapping duties with keen (and brave) students from the school and is encouraging them to become au fait with catch IT data.

There is an upcoming opportunity for locals to get involved in Pest Free Howick’s “Pestival’.

Held on Wednesday, September 18 at Ormiston Junior College from 7.30pm, the evening is a chance to get your own free rat trap to take home and use for the duration of the project. A demonstration of how to use the trap and advice on placing traps and pest disposal is also available.

Networking is from 7 pm with tea and coffee on hand. For further information about the event or the wider initiative email pestfreehowick@aucklandcouncil.govt.nz.