Today the New Zealand government announced plans to rid the country of introduced predators by 2050. That includes species like possums, rats, and stoats that kill around 25 million birds native to New Zealand (like the kiwi) yearly, according to the government. Prime Minister John Key said introduced predators are a bigger threat to native animals than deforestation and poaching.

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In a statement Key said, “This is the most ambitious conservation project attempted anywhere in the world, but we believe if we all work together as a country we can achieve it.” The government will spend $28 million to see the goal through in a “new joint venture company,” Predator Free New Zealand Limited. The company will seek out “predator control projects” to pursue.

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Key said the costs of introduced predators are high: around 3.3 billion New Zealand dollars every year (that’s about USD 2.3 billion), along with the deaths of native species. There are less than 70,000 kiwis left in the country, and 20 more die every week.

Professors and activists expressed excitement about the government’s announcement. Manager of Campaigns & Advocacy at the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand Kevin Hackwell told The Guardian, “I think 2050 is a conservative goal, we could be on track to doing it by 2040. The government has just come on board but many groups around New Zealand have been working towards being predator-free for years…The biggest hurdle in the end will be public support for the project.”

One such group fighting the introduced predators is Predator Free New Zealand, who said in a news release they are “delighted the Government wants to borrow” their name. They’ve been around since 2013, and have a map of predator control projects throughout the country. They also offer a guide for volunteer groups who want to exterminate introduced pests in their area, such as information on permits and different types of traps.

Via The Guardian

Images via Andrew on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons