Offshore islands have long been seen by conservationists as life rafts for our native biodiversity, taonga.
As offshore refuges, they offer clear lines of demarcation between the land and marine environments. This enables ecologists to well define what the goals, aspirations and achievable targets are for protecting wildlife, particularly endemic species unique to Aoteoroa that have evolved to specialise in island habitats. While rodents, particularly rats, rattus rattus and rattus norvegicus ship rat and norway rat respectively are strong swimmers, the rate of re-invasion to islands is massively slower than to mainland conservation sites. Fortunately, mice are very poor swimmers.
Interestingly, on the Tunaiti island group adjacent to Whangamata, only casual efforts were made to control rodents in around 1994 (Phil Thomson pers comms, DOC). It would appear that this inadvertently resulted in an eradication of rodents at this time on both Whenuakura and Rawengaiti islands. Hauturu was eradicated of mice during 2019-20. During the latter eradication program intensive species monitoring was carried out on all the islands but only Hauturu needed rodents eradicated. They were found pre-eracidation to be at plague proportions. This demonstrates in spectacular fashion how defendable islands are as sanctuaries against rodents.
As a result of all the above efforts, korora (little blue penguin), titi (mutton bird), at least three species of skink and gecko and many species of passerine birds are now exploding in numbers on the islands.
In the future, it is hoped to return more lizard species to the islands, and ultimately, the return of the incredible reptile, the tuatara.