Seeking to safeguard the future of its kiwis, parrots and hobbits, New Zealand has just made the "world first" decision to eradicate all wild predators by 2050. Image: BagoGames/Flickr
That means rats, possums, stoats, ferrets and feral cats, all introduced from foreign countries and responsible for the deaths of millions of native birds each year, will have to go, Radio New Zealand reports. The government is shelling out $NZ28 million ($26.2 million) to jumpstart a new joint venture company, Predator Free New Zealand Ltd, that will identify and sponsor "high value predator control projects" that can be applied across tens of thousands of acres, with the ultimate goal of making the entire nation predator-free by 2050.
It's an enormously ambitious conservation project, and as New Zealand freely acknowledges, the effort will require the development of new pest control technologies. Although traditional methods like predator-proof fences and pesticides will play a role, a stated goal of Predator Free New Zealand is a "scientific breakthrough capable of removing at least one small mammalian predator from New Zealand entirely" by 2025.
The common brushtail possum, a major pest in New Zealand. Image: Wikimedia
While a ban on predators may sound cruel, unusual and ripped straight out of popular kid's movie Zootopia, it's important to keep in mind that before the arrival of humans, New Zealand's terrestrial ecosystems had no significant predation. The introduction of Polynesian rats and dogs by the Māori, followed by the arrival of Europeans with countless non-native mammals in tow, wrought untold havoc on the island's native wildlife.
"New Zealand's unique native creatures and plants are central to our national identity," Conservation Minister Maggie Barry said in a statement. They evolved for millions of years in a world without mammals and as a result are extremely vulnerable to introduced predators."
While there's no going back to a pre-settlement ecological state, for New Zealand or anywhere else, removing all predators would be a major step in that direction.
There are, however, two exceptions to the predator ban: Family pets and humans. Arguably the two most successful groups of predators on planet Earth, the decision to exclusive two-legged mammals and their collared companions can best be described as an act of blatant favouritism.
Gizmodo has also been unable to determine whether orcs are explicitly included in the predator ban, but we will update if and when that information becomes available.