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Asia Minute: New Zealand’s Campaign Against Invasive Species

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Invasive species are a familiar problem in Hawai‘i. They are a challenge for any island community—and that includes New Zealand—which is trying a new tactic in an old fight. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.


New Zealand is a global leader in the fight against invasive species.

The government has made it a priority—operating under a policy called “Predator Free 2050.”  The goal is to entirely eliminate invasive rats and possums in a little more than thirty years—as well as “stoats”—a kind of weasel.

Late last year, New Zealand became the first country to eradicate an invasive butterfly species, the great white butterfly.  Whose caterpillars are fond of certain fresh vegetables—broccoli, cauliflower and Brussel sprouts.

This week, the government announced a new strategy to fight the invasive plant known as giant reed—or elephant grass.

The New Zealand Herald says the plan involves importing two types of insects from the Mediterranean that will naturally fight the elephant grass, mostly by eating their way through the growth.

It’s a calculated risk—bringing in one species to combat another has had mixed results throughout history—including here in Hawai‘i.

In the 1880's, sugar cane farmers brought in the mongoose—in order to eat the rats that were plaguing the crops.

The problem with that approach is that rats sleep during the day….the mongoose sleeps at night…so both still call Hawai‘i home.

Environmental officials in New Zealand say they do NOT expect similar issues with the elephant grass and the insects.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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