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Highlanders tackling possums for conservation

14 March 2024

The Highlanders Rugby Club is tackling a different type of opponent this season – possums.

In a new partnership with City Sanctuary, the city branch of Predator Free Dunedin, Highlanders’ players are helping prevent possums re-invading the Otago Peninsula.

Fifteen years of efforts to eradicate possums from the Otago Peninsula by the Otago Peninsula Biodiversity Group are almost complete and a key part of this conservation work is to stop possums roaming back into the landscape from coastal suburbs.

“We need all hands on deck to help us detect any rogue possums and create a line of defence to protect the huge eradication efforts on the Otago Peninsula. We’re thrilled to have the support of the Highlanders in this vital work for Dunedin’s native wildlife,” says City Sanctuary Project Manager Kate Tanner.

Players have been trained up on how to trap possums in urban areas and are getting stuck into monitoring work to detect possums along John Wilson Drive at St Kilda. They will also be hitting the streets to encourage locals to keep an eye and ear out for the introduced marsupials.

Highlanders’ Player Personal Development Manager Sonya O’Neill says the collaboration is a great way to promote giving back to the community and maintaining wellbeing through spending time in nature.

“From a personal development perspective there is a heap of evidence that identifies the correlation of the health of blue and green spaces and the well-being of the people of that community.”

City Sanctuary is one of three Predator Free Dunedin projects aiming to reduce the threat of introduced possums, rats and stoats on native wildlife. This year a key focus of City Sanctuary’s work is to prevent possums re-invading the Otago Peninsula.

The public have an important role to play in the fight to keep possums out of the peninsula. Any possum sightings in St Kilda, Musselburgh, Tainui and St Clair should be reported to the Predator Free Dunedin website ( or by email to

Possums were introduced to New Zealand in 1858 and have caused significant damage to native forests and wildlife.




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