Visit the docks in Auckland, New Zealand, on any day of the week and you might just see Piri puttering around, clothe in a smart orange vest and travelling about her work with the utmost professionalism. Observe as she strolls to some handbags and does a detailed scour, before clambering aboard a barge to take a good inhale around.
Piri works for the New Zealand government in the Department of Conservation.
She also happens to be a hound.
Piri is a ratter, a specially trained hound who can scent out rodents. Her responsibility be able to find both rats and mice that might be hidden in luggage or in crannies aboard ships that are heading for islands around Auckland. These islands are home to some of New Zealand’s most threatened and beloved native species, like the country’s national animal, the awfully stout and very cute kiwi, and the world’s only nocturnal flightless parrot, the kakapo.
One of New Zealand’s greatest management accomplishments, these so-called “island sanctuaries” are exclusively pest- and predator-free, earmarking these jeopardized animals to thrive without threat.
There are currently around 100 of these pest-free islands in New Zealand. Conservation puppies like Piri play a central role in keeping them safe.
“Conservation in New Zealand is often about removing predators that are killing our native wildlife, ” Fin Buchanan, technological advisor with the Department of Conservation, told The Huffington Post over Skype from his Auckland office last week. “Before humen, native species advanced in New Zealand in the absence of mammalian predators. But when the Mori first arrived[ from Polynesia in the 1200 s ], they imparted animals like the omnivorous Pacific rat. Then a few centuries subsequently, the Europeans came and fetched a whole host of other mammals.”
In the front of these new threats, New Zealand’s native species many of them, like most of New Zealand’s fowls, are endemic, or located nowhere else on Earth had “no way to defend themselves, ” said Buchanan. Numerous endemic beings, including the laughing owl and the narrow-bodied skink, soon get extinct, killed off by these innovated predators.
Today, several endemic species are considered threatened in the wild. According to Dr. Bruce Robertson, a management biology professor at New Zealand’s University of Otago, mammalian predators continue to be “one of the greatest threats” facing the country’s native wildlife.
“It’s an ongoing trouble, ” he told HuffPost over the phone Thursday, “and it’s impacting neighbourhoods across the country.”