Native NZ wildlife could live in cities if country commits to investing in suitable environment - study

A new study from the University of Otago is calling for the government to invest in helping native animals live in cities and not just our national parks.

The study, published in the Pacific Conservation Biology journal, argues New Zealand wildlife like kiwi, bellbird, bats and even tuatara could live in cities and suburbs, if the country commits to making these spaces a suitable environment.

The study is based on survey information from 18 New Zealand conservation experts who suggested 41 species that could dwell in urban areas.

The most mentioned species were forest birds, with over half of all suggestions, invertebrates like weta, large snails and beetles, and lizards.

"For the native species, it's just another place where they can live so providing another habitat," said researcher Yolanda van Heezik.

"For humans, it means we can actually experience these species as part of our everyday life... We need to create environments for these species if we want to be able to experience them without travelling to a national park."

For that to happen, the study found the country needs to increase pest control efforts, create more green spaces and get the general public engaged with the idea of making cities a home for animals endemic to New Zealand.

The main barrier is pets, with Ms van Heezik saying the country is largely missing a social conscience on controlling dogs and cats.

"While kiwi could probably thrive in town belts and bush fragments around the edges of cities, dogs would be a major problem," she said.

The study reports 35 per cent of the country's homes own a cat.

"If we want to have these species as part of our everyday lives then we need to keep our cats inside," Ms van Heezik said.

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage does not own a cat, deciding after her cat died that she would not get another.

"I think gradually we'll see people recognise that having wildlife thrive means keeping cats inside and potentially when your cat dies not replacing it," she said.

The Government has an ambitious goal to rid the country of rats, stoats and possums by 2050.

Wellington received $3.27 million in government funding this week to boost its community predator-free efforts.

Miramar mother and daughter trapping team Fiona Austen and Chelsea Wong have caught around 80 rats since they started trapping at the end of April this year.

"I've never touched a rat or a mouse before, I'm not experienced, but it's the pure motivation and it's only gross the first time," Ms Austen said.

The pair are motivated to see more native animals around their garden, and it's already paying off.

"I like it. We saw a fantail and we haven't seen many before," nine-year-old Chelsea said.

Otago University researchers are backing their cause, arguing NZ wildlife could live in cities and suburbs. Source: 1 NEWS

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