Rising feral rabbit numbers in the Tawharanui Regional Park is costing the volunteer group Tawharanui Open Sanctuary Society Inc. (TOSSI) extra dollars in preventative fencing.
While a proper survey of the rabbit population has not been undertaken due to the cost in volunteer hours, campers are reporting seeing large numbers of rabbits around the beach areas.
Tossi deputy chair Roger Grove says he is not surprised by the sightings because the beach fringes and sand dunes are favoured rabbit habitat. His group has been concerned for several months about the proliferation of rabbits in the park.
“A contractor did a cull just before Christmas and shot 305 rabbits in one night, between 9pm and 5.30pm,” Roger says. “We’ll get him in again after the main holiday season is over, but keeping numbers down is an ongoing challenge. In the past, we’ve fumigated burrows, but the two volunteers trained to do this retired last year so this may have contributed to the increase in numbers.”
The main problem with rabbits is their taste for freshly planted young trees.
As a result, Tossi is moving away from planting “bunny treats” such as coprosma and is raising more natives such as kanuka and manuka, which the rabbits have less of an appetite for.
“Fencing individual trees is adding around $2000 to our annual costs so in future, we are looking at fencing planted areas rather than individual trees.”
Roger says Tossi is working with Auckland Council as a priority to come up with a long-term plan to reduce numbers or eradicate the rabbits altogether.
“These things cost money though so if anyone reading this would like to make a donation, we would be very grateful.”
Contact information for Tossi: tossi.org.nz