Who let the dogs out?
Two dogs from New Zealand to save Rimatara and Ua Huka Lorikeets from black rats.
PAPEETE, August 21, 2015. – The SOP Manu association, various public and private partners and the city council of Ua Huka and Rimatara have invested 5 million Fcfp to bring two dogs specialized in rats hunting from New Zealand. Their sole mission will be to prevent the black rat to enter the two last rat-free islands of French Polynesia.
In all of Polynesia, only two major islands are still untouched by the invasion of black rats, Rimatara in the Austral and Ua Huka in the Marquesas. It is no coincidence, these are the last islands where two species of small parrots try and survive:
‘ura (Rimatara Lorikeet – ©Jean-Paul MUTZ)…
and pihiti (Ultramarine Lorikeet -©Jean-Paul MUTZ)
The pihiti from Ua Huka is the last representatives of his colourful and friendly species for it had never known predator in its evolution.
To save them, the Manu association has a brand new plan, helped by the two towns concerned, the state, the DIREN and various private partners (the Foundation Prince Bernhard Nature Fund, Pacific Invasives Initiative, the fund Te Me UM, Air Tahiti and Vini).
The plan was to purchase two rat hunter dogs, the latter arrived from New Zealand on Friday morning, 21st of August 2015, at Faa’a International airport.
Guus Knopers carrying Whisky, Caroline Blanvillain, the veterinary from the association, Philippe Raust carrying Dora next to Jean Kape (Photo Tahiti Infos).
This initiative has cost 5 million francs in total, including three million French Pacific francs just to buy the dogs which received a nine months training prior arriving in French Polynesia. The rest included transportation and training of staff from local associations.
Dora and Whisky received a flower lei on arrival (Photo Jean Kape).
These dogs will ensure that inspections of goods arriving from Papeete by sea and air are 100% effective, and avoid the black rat from setting foot on the islands.
Their work will be a great addition to the system already in place by Manu and the local associations of Rima’ura and Vaiku’a i te manu o Ua Huka.
For three years, these associations have placed over 30 mouse trap devices around the docks and the airport alongside with sight inspection of imported goods on the island.
Supply boats like Aranui III, IX and Tuhaa Taporo Pae IV, the Tahitian oil mill, the Port of Papeete, Air Tahiti and Air Archipels are also partners in this bio security project and have set up traps and anti-rats devices in Papeete.
Guus Knopers, Dora and Wisky’s trainer.
“I am a dog trainer in New Zealand. There we draw them for a variety of missions for the police, bio security and private organizations…. To hunt rats, we choose dogs that have significant hunting instinct, and when they find rats we reward them with toys and their instinct encourages them to hunt more, and continue it again and again until we can get them in rat-infested places where we let them loose to hunt rats all day.
Photo Jean Kape
Besides hunting, we should also teach them to be very obedient and very sociable, they need to work with other people and get used to be petted by strangers. These dogs have been trained for nine months. In New Zealand we have 69 “predator dogs” as they are called, they hunt rats, ferrets and weasels, and are also used to find threatened species like kiwis and Takahē , but clearly without hurting them. But in French Polynesia, they will be used only to hunt rats, specifically those found on boats.
My program now is to stay here for three and a half weeks to train the new masters of these dogs to communicate with them, understand them, give them orders and continue their training … “
Dora (three years old female terrier) and Wisky (18 months old Male cross terrier) are playing with a toy impregnated with the smell of rats. Photo Tahiti Infos.
Philippe Raust, president of Manu association.
“These dogs are a continuation of an operation that began three years ago, on two islands that are important to the Polynesian biodiversity, Rimatara and Ua Huka. There are found birds called Loris parrots that are unique to these islands and the world. So far, to prevent the introduction of alien species, the SOP operated visual inspections with some of their trained employees. But it appears that the most reliable technique is dog rat hunters. The inspections will consist on detection of black rats on goods arriving from Tahiti, those rats are very dangerous. They easily climb trees to reach nests to eat eggs and broods. Here we want to find black rats because there are already other species of rats on site those causes less problems since they are not good climbers and birds survive quite well despite their presence. We want to avoid the introduction of black rats. The dogs will catch the few that manage to get off the boats.
The city council of Rimatara and Ua Huka are heavily involved in the operation and we must thank them for this action. They feel deeply concerned with the conservation of their local species. Apart from saving some species there are other benefits. We are working on saving the biodiversity, but the side benefits are far from negligible. There are economic benefits to the protection of plantations and coconut groves, and health benefits for the population, to avoid having rats lurking and spread disease. “
Guus Knopers (and Whisky), Jean Kape, Caroline Blanvillain (and Dora) – Photo Jean Kape
Written by Jacques Franc de Ferriere – Tahiti Infos – Friday, 21st of August 2015 1:48 pm
Translated by Louis Baillat (GLOBAL-E).