The government of New Zealand has declared war on countryside pests. It wants to make the country predator-free by 2050. It has set an ambitious target to eradicate all non-native species from the country over the next three decades. New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key says he intends to introduce strategies to cull introduced species, especially predators that threaten New Zealand's native birds. He said: "Rats, possums and stoats kill 25 million of our native birds every year, and prey on other native species such as lizards. Along with the rest of our environment, we must do more to protect them." His government has awarded $28 million to a company that will help implement his plans.
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Mr Key told reporters: "This is the most ambitious conservation project attempted anywhere in the world, but we believe if we all work together as a country, we can achieve it." It will take the combined efforts of the private and public sectors as well as community groups. Few people in New Zealand want more of the country's native birds to become extinct. Since European settlers arrived in the mid-nineteenth century and brought with them rats and other predators, New Zealand has lost a huge variety of birds. These include the bush wren, the laughing owl and the mysterious starling. The country's national bird, the kiwi, is currently under threat. Only five per cent of kiwi chicks survive to adulthood.