Matthew Martin is a senior reporter at the Rotorua Daily Post

Wildlife returns to tourist spot

Native wildlife is returning in droves to the site of one of Rotorua's newest and most popular tourist attractions due to the success of the company's predator eradication work.

After less than nine months in operation Rotorua Canopy Tours general manager James Fitzgerald said there had been a marked increase in birdlife in the forest which has encouraged the company to step up its conservation efforts.

Mr Fitzgerald spoke to the Rotorua Daily Post at Trenz, the nation's premier tourism trade event, in Auckland yesterday.

Rotorua Canopy Tours is the only native forest zipline canopy tour in New Zealand and has already become the number one ranked attraction on TripAdvisor in the North Island and Rotorua. It is within the 500ha Department of Conservation managed Dansey Rd Scenic Reserve on the way to Mamaku.

Mr Fitzgerald said birds such as kereru, bellbirds, tui and the North Island robin were returning to the forest in large numbers. "When we started last year there was hardly any birdlife whatsoever. They are now coming into the conservation trail along with our customers.

"Late last year there were 80 rats taken out of the tour area and when you understand that they can breed up to three times a year that's a significant number."

He said the birds would now have a relatively pest free breeding season. "It's the first step on our journey and in 5 to 10 years we imagine it will be just amazing."

The company will soon be encouraging local businesses and community groups to support their efforts. "What we want to do is package products to local businesses - and a couple have already come on board - to pledge to put in some traps which they will be able to monitor the progress of the eradication programme.

"If we get enough support we could put in $20,000 to $30,000 a year and turn this reserve into a major community asset covering the entire 500ha with walking trails and that sort of thing."

He said DoC was fully supportive of the programme.

In just eight-and-a-half months of operation 9000 customers have visited the attraction.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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