When Captain James Cook and his crew first arrived here in 1769, they described the dawn chorus of New Zealand’s birds as “deafening”.
Virtually no predators existed, so many birds evolved as weak flyers (or flightless) and built their nests on the ground. But once rats, possums, stoats, cats and ferrets arrived, the game changed.
Now our forests are so quiet you can almost hear a pin drop.
When Rotorua Canopy Tours first set up their unique zipline operation in 2012, they were just as committed to returning that beautiful birdsong to the forest as they were to running a successful tourism business.
An experiment to see how many pests might live around Rotorua Canopy Tours’ base in the Dansey Road Scenic Reserve produced some pretty scary results. Corrugated cardboard ‘chew track cards’ stuffed with peanut butter were completely obliterated by rats and possums overnight.
And so the company’s efforts to eradicate pests began.
In August 2013 staff set manual traps across 50ha. It was exhausting, labour-intensive work. Over 800 rats, possums, stoats and cats were caught in just one week but the cost and hours involved was unsustainable and some hard lessons were learnt.
Thankfully, the development of new gas-powered self-resetting traps by Wellington-based company Goodnature, provided a better solution. In 2015 Rotorua Canopy Tours became the first commercial operator to use this world-leading pest control system and installed 450 traps over 100ha.
The results were instant – over 700 rats and possums were caught in the first three days alone. Today there’s one Goodnature rat trap located on our trapping lines every 50m and one possum trap every 100m.
Rotorua Canopy Tours has spent over $250,000 on its conservation efforts so far. A portion of every ticket fee is re-invested back into this fund, and customers inspired by the work taking place have generously donated money and sponsored traps.
The Department of Conservation was also highly impressed and in late 2015 they came on board to help form the new Canopy Conservation Trust.