In an excellent analysis of Predator Free 2050, in the June 2 edition of the New Zealand Herald, entitled, "Can New Zealand kill every rat, possum and stoat?", Herald science reporter Jamie Morton tackled the many questions around achieving predator-free status within the timeframe.

Morton's comprehensive review outlines the significant steps that have been taken by many organisations, across large areas of the country to get rid of rats, stoats, and possums.

Improvements in efficiency, humaneness, and the scale of pest control operations, and the development and socialisation of new scientific advances will all contribute to a significant reduction in these key mammalian predators.

However, predator control and the restoration of native species, our taonga, is not exactly the same thing.


There is a bigger story.

The Endangered Species Foundation of New Zealand (ESF) completely supports Predator Free 2050 and its vision to protect our natural heritage, but we also want people to understand that there are hundreds of endemic species that will not benefit from the control of possums, rodents and mustelids, such as many unique plants, insects, and marine and freshwater species.

So the second, equal and extremely important part of the story is the need for Government, corporate, and individual funding to go to those groups who are engaged in saving our endangered species, albeit in a changing environment – one with a reducing number of predators, but increasing environmental threats.

ESF has investigated what actions are needed and how much these will cost to protect the 50 species in Aotearoa that are closest to extinction.

Elimination of predators, or even a reduction in predator numbers, will contribute significantly to protecting prey species, but these make up only about half of the 50 most endangered species.

Marine taonga such as Maui dolphin, Antipodean albatross and New Zealand sea lion; freshwater taonga such as freshwater snails, caddisflies and galaxiad fish, and many plants and insects will not be protected from extinction by mammalian predator control.

Inland salt pans - such as the one pictured, near Alexandra - are an endangered habitat type that are home to their own endangered species, including New Zealand's smallest grass and a carrot-relative that was only discovered to be unique two years ago.

Habitat destruction and weed invasion are the biggest problems. It is estimated it could cost around $108,000 over 10 years to protect five salt pans.


The Foveaux looper moth requires $40,000 for initial research and a further $15,000 per annum for weed control.

Coastal peppercress needs to be cultivated and reintroduced at more sites around Nelson. This will cost approximately $127,000 over 10 years.

Our purpose is to attract private and corporate funding for the most urgent conservation work - ensuring that our unique species don't go extinct before Aotearoa is rid of pests - however long that takes.

ESF is an independent and apolitical organisation bringing together leading science and independent funding to save New Zealand's rarest of the rare.

ESF provides vital science information and advice, and ongoing support to a variety of projects nationwide, with independent funding from grants, bequests and - vitally - donations.

For more information, to make a donation, or to volunteer as an ambassador to help save our rarest of the rare, visit the ESF website at
• Phil Seddon is a Professor of Zoology at the University of Otago and a trustee of the Endangered Species Foundation of New Zealand