trouble in paradise
On Ulva Island (Te Wharawhara in Maori) you (almost) experience the world as it was 85 million years ago.
Ulva Island is a tiny island (3.5 kms or just over 2 miles in length) - home to a large number of birds, invertebrates and plants endangered elsewhere in New Zealand.
The island is a ten minute ferry ride from Stewart Island (Rakiura in Maori). Stewart Island is a one hour ferry ride from the southern tip of New Zealand's South Island. It's separated from the southern continent of Antarctica only by an expanse of sea and ice. The climate is cool temperate.
Ulva Island has been described as a primeval paradise, rich in biodiversity, and it is. However, (as you would expect), there is trouble in paradise.
New Zealand separated from the supercontinent of Gondwanaland before the evolution of mammals. Hence there are no mammals native to New Zealand. The Maoris arrived from Polynesia 700 years ago and later came the Europeans. With the Europeans came cats, rats, possums, ferrets and stoats. The native birds didn't have a chance against these introduced predators and rapidly diminished in numbers. In addition there was widespread destruction of their habitat as trees were felled.
Gradually there grew a new consciousness about the importance of environmental conservation. In 1899 an impressively progressive New Zealand government reserved most of Stewart and Ulva Islands to preserve 'native game and flora'.
Of all the introduced predators rats were the worst, eating almost anything - seeds, seedlings, eggs, chicks and fruit. There used to be thousands of rats on Ulva Island, but by 1997 it was believed that there were no more rats, due to a longterm vigorous and intensive eradication program.
Unfortunately the rats have returned. Another determined onslaught is needed and has begun.