The ship rat invasion of Big South Cape Island/Taukihepa in the 1960s was an ecological catastrophe that marked a turning point for the management of rodents on offshore islands of New Zealand. Despite the importance of this event in the conservation history of New Zealand, and subsequent major advances in rodent eradication and biosecurity, the source and pathway of the rat invasion of Big South Cape Island has never been identified.
Domestic cats (Felis catus) in Halfmoon Bay, Stewart Island/Rakiura, were tracked to assess the potential for incursions into native forest around the township, and into Rakiura National Park c. 5 km away. During February and April 2005, 15 and 4 radio-collared cats were tracked, respectively. During a six-month period, cat-owners logged prey brought home by 11 cats. Cats were at home >90% of the time. Of the six cats that left home, movements were small: home range was between 0.05 and 16.6 ha (100% minimum convex polygon).
Ship rats (Rattus rattus) were removed from sites on Pearl Island, southern Stewart Island, in 2004 and 2005, to test whether they excluded Pacific rats (R. exulans) or Norway rats (R. norvegicus) or both from podocarp-broadleaf forest. As predators can influence habitat use in rodents, Pearl Island was selected because no mammalian predators of rodents are present. Rats were trapped in two other habitats to clarify rat distribution on the island and to obtain samples for stable isotope investigation of food partitioning within habitats.
The relative abundance of ship rats (Rattus rattus), Norway rats (R. norvegicus), and Pacific rats (R. exulans), was measured in four vegetation types on Stewart Island/Rakiura, over six consecutive seasons. Ship rats were found in all four vegetation types and dominated in podocarp-broadleaf forest and riparian shrubland. Norway rats were most common in subalpine shrubland and Pacific rats dominated in manuka (Leptospermum scoparium) shrubland. Analysis of micro-habitat affinities for the three species showed that ship rats were habitat generalists.
During a comprehensive survey in 1999, 2000 and 2001, we investigated the number of breeding yellow-eyed penguin pairs on Stewart Island, where cats are present, and on adjacent cat-free islands. We found 79 pairs of yellow-eyed penguin breeding in 19 discrete locations on Stewart Island (4.2 pairs per location), and 99 pairs breeding in 10 discrete locations on all cat-free islands (9.9 pairs per location). Large-scale humaninduced habitat modifications have not occurred on Stewart Island, nor on any of its adjacent offshore islands.
The diet and food preferences of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) on north-eastern Stewart Island are described from the analysis of 160 samples of rumen contents collected between 1979 and 1985, and vegetation surveys in 1975 and 1976. Deer browsed all the hardwood trees, but few shrubs, ferns, or podocarps. Woody plants comprised 85.1 % (dry weight) of annual diet. Broadleaf (Griselinia littoralis; 34.6%) and supplejack (Ripogonum scandens; 18.6%) were the most important foods, all other species comprising less than 5%.
The diet and feeding methods of kakapo (Strigops habroptilus) on Stewart Island, southern New Zealand, were studied by examining sign left by the birds. Most feeding sign was found on herbs, ferns, and shrubs, especially on new and developing growth such as leaves, bark, fruits and seeds, as well as the subterranean portions. The species on which most kakapo sign was found were Lycopodium ramulosum, L. fastigiatum, Schizaea fistulosa var. australis, Blechnum minus, B.
Norway rats (Rattus norvegicus) were eradicated from Ulva Island, Rakiura National Park, in 1996. The aim of our work was to determine if seedlings and saplings increased in density and/or species richness following this eradication. In 2003, we took advantage of eight permanent plots (5 × 5 m) that had been established on Ulva Island in 1991, by counting seedlings and saplings of woody species, including tree ferns. Over this period, total numbers of woody seedlings (P > 0.05).