Million Dollar Mouse project departs for Antipodes Island
Time is running out for the mice living on Antipodes Island.
Department of Conservation (DOC) staff left Timaru on the cargo vessel Norfolk Guardian on Wednesday, bound for the island about 820 kilometres southeast of New Zealand.
Once there they will attempt to eradicate the mouse population from the island.
Mice are the only introduced predators on the island, which is home to the Antipodes Island snipe, Antipodes Island parakeet and the critically endangered Antipodean wandering albatross.
DOC Antipodes Mouse Eradication project manager Stephen Horn said a total of 65 tonnes of a cereal bait made up partly of brodifacoum would be spread over the island using helicopters.
Other members of the team left on the sailing vessel The Evohe a few days earlier out of Dunedin, he said.
Vessel manager Greg Syman said the operation loading the helicopters onto the ship went "smoothly".
One of the three helicopters was loaded on Tuesday afternoon, and the other two on Wednesday morning.
The ship would leave Timaru at 6pm Wednesday and Syman expected it would arrive at the Antipodes Island in about three days time, weather permitting.
The helicopters, two of which came from Hanmer Springs and the other from Queenstown, would be unloaded onto the island first ahead of other cargo.
As conditions needed to be "completely right" for unloading to take place, the ship had allowed for about 10 days at the island, Syman said.
Horn said he was unsure how long the operation would take because it was entirely weather dependent.
The team had allowed for three months in their planning, he said.
Originally the eradication project was meant to take place in 2015 but was put off until 2016 after the navy ship providing assistance was diverted to cyclone-ravaged Fiji.
The HMNZS Canterbury was set to depart from Lyttelton on February 25 to carry out set up work crucial to the mouse eradication programme
"I think everyone is looking forward to getting under way and seeing it happen."
After the operation the team would return to the island in two years to see if the operations was a success, he said.
This story has been corrected.