The Conservation Sacrifice: How Far New Zealand Will Go To Save Its Birds

In July of 2016, the New Zealand government announced plans for Predator Free 2050, the biggest predator control effort ever undertaken in the country-and perhaps the world. Predator Free 2050 is a government-sanctioned goal to eliminate rats, stoats, and possums from New Zealand. Since New Zealand has no native land mammals, its bird species are poorly adapted to withstand predation from the mammals that have been introduced since humans first arrived on the nation’s shores. The country is now home to nearly 170 native bird species, most of which are declining and considered at risk or threatened after years of predation by invasive mammals. 93 of these species are endemic, found nowhere else on the planet. Predator Free 2050 builds on years of conservation efforts to reduce predator numbers and provide safe spaces for bird populations to recover, including the successful elimination of mammalian pests on islands and fenced-in sanctuaries around the country. Birds are a critical component of the nation’s cultural identity and the government hopes that Predator Free 2050 will protect New Zealand’s rare birds. However, it’s not yet clear whether this goal is feasible and some of the methods used to wipe out pests have been controversial. The difficult decisions being made in New Zealand right now reflect the challenges and conflicts that arise around the world when wildlife protection requires significant changes and sacrifices.


Brittany Flaherty

About Brittany Flaherty

Brittany is a Boston-based science writer and “just-for-fun” blogger who grew up exploring the wooded trails and apple orchards of Harvard, MA. When she recently asked her parents about her career ambitions as a kid, Brittany was told, “You just liked nature and reading.” Not much has changed: from aspiring “nature reader” to budding science writer, Brittany has long loved to explore her surroundings and the power of communication. Delighted to learn that she didn’t have to choose just one of her passions, Brittany studied biology, environmental studies, and English at William Smith College. She began to ardently write about her scientific interests at the nexus of medicine, health, and the environment. After graduation, she moved to Vancouver and conducted Fulbright research that examined emerging challenges for the United States and Canada in managing their transboundary water. Brittany then returned to Boston and has written about cancer biology and research for Dana-Farber Cancer Institute since 2012. Brittany is thrilled to join the Graduate Program in Science Writing at MIT, where she hopes to learn more about how best to connect society with science. An avid runner, skier, and yogi, Brittany writes about language and movement on Thesis: The Conservation Sacrifice: How Far New Zealand Will Go To Save Its Birds


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