Eastern Courier : March 25th 2011
www.easterncourier.co.nz Friday, March 25, 2011 Pai has rats on the run By MATT BOWEN On the hunt: Pai and DOC ranger Fin Buchanan search for rodent stowaways among a group of school children at the Half Moon Bay ferry terminal. Photos: FIONA GOODALL PAI S subtle sense of smell and sharp teeth are the main line of defence between Auck- land s massive rodent popu- lation and pest-free Motuihe Island. The border terrier cross is up against it. Every ferry trip could hold a stowaway with the potential to decimate the island s endangered species population including kaka- riki, bellbirds, saddleback and shore skinks. Pai is a busy 17-month-old. Conservation Department ranger Fin Buchanan has him sniffing school groups, vehicles, trailers, boats and ferries wherever he s needed. Just last week the loyal canine started straining against his leash while checking a van on a Sealink ferry at Half Moon Bay that was destined for Motuihe. Pai smelt a rat. Mr Buchanan ordered the vehicle off the ferry. The rodent seemed to be hiding in the engine so he thumped it. A ship rat tumbled out into Pai s waiting jaws. The pair were back at the scene this week canvassing 200 students and 64 adults from Bucklands Beach Inter- mediate School. "I must admit I m very proud of Pai, Mr Buchanan says. I feel like the father of an All Black who has just scored a try in a test match. Pai s reward is the hunt and kill but also in pleasing his master. Nothing makes him happier. Mr Buchanan bred Pai specifically for the job -- it s in his genes. From an early age he was encouraged to use his nose to search and at six weeks was introduced to rats and mice. But Mr Buchanan says they only manage to check 80 percent of vessels and their cargo, leaving a gaping hole in their defence. He would like that bolstered to 100 percent. The Conservation Depart- ment and the Auckland Council are working on a memorandum of understand- ing that could see another hound on the case -- Pai s mother. Mr Buchanan, a life-long conservationist, has grown more passionate about pro- tecting pest-free island sanctuaries over the years. If you can eradicate the pests the only way they re going to get back there is by hitchhiking on something. It makes the islands so much more precious. Motuihe has been free of rats and other animal pests since 1996 and DOC is on track to declare Rangitoto and Motutapu islands pest free this winter. Visit www.easterncourier. co.nz to see Pai on the job.
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