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The Persecution of rooks in New Zealand

On the local radio throughout this spring, Greater Wellington Regional Council was once again asking people to report on rookeries in the area. This pursuit of rooks brings into question Regional Council's pest strategies especially in relation to birds.

Rooks are a minor agricultural pest, certainly no worse than say yellowhammers, so why is one being pursued and not the other? It would seem that one of requirements of the Biosecurity Act is that pest control must be cost effective, so the yellowhammer is too numerous and widespread to eradicate but the rook is apparently a viable target for eradication. Both birds were introduced from Europe in the 19th century, as bio-control agents. These birds are not a threat to native or endemic species.

In perusing the voluminous amount of data on Regional Council pest strategies on line, I have managed to glean that over a period of twenty years 2002-2022 at a cost of $60,000 a year it is proposed to eradicate the rook. Part of that budget goes towards putting up helicopters to find the rookeries.

There is no similar proposal to eradicate more serious pests such as mustelids or rats as like the yellowhammer they are not cost effective. Possums are dealt with because of necessity for tb control.

However, there is an operational budget for the control of pests, cats, mustelids, rats, in a buffer zone around Mount Bruce, the wildlife sanctuary in the Wairarapa. The budget for one year 2007-2008 was $34,300. I was not able to glean what the long term strategy is for the buffer zone.

Now in looking at all this, the logic somehow escapes me. To eradicate the rook, a minor agricultural pest on a par with yellowhammers, will cost 1.2 million over 20 years. Given what has happened to the Kiwi at Mount Bruce, the losses from mustelid attacks, should we not be spending that money on increased pest control in the buffer zone around Mount Bruce and leaving the poor rook alone?

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