Tools to Market: developing new predator control technology
IntroductionThis programme is investing in the development of new predator control tools and technology to support Predator Free 2050.
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The Predator Free 2050 (PF2050) Tools to Market Programme seeks to invest in the accelerated development of new and existing predator control tools and technology by designers and engineers across New Zealand.
The purpose of the Programme is to make smarter, safer and more effective tools and technology available to the Predator Free 2050 community within a one to five-year timeframe.
Tools to Market invests $1.4 million annually to support the full gamut of steps from proof of concept, through research and development, to prototype testing at a landscape scale with three main goals:
- Refine current predator control tools to make them safer and more cost-effective.
- Develop new or improved tools to eradicate predators at a landscape scale.
- Expand predator control so a range of tools are available for different environments and situations.
Since launching, Tools to Market has completed two rounds of procurement, in 2017 and 2019. Projects underway or completed are outlined below.
Third procurement round
Tools to Market is running a third procurement round to accelerate the delivery of new and improved tools and technologies to enable availability in the New Zealand market. The Request for Proposal (RFP) process is now closed for responses, and applications are being assessed. Successful proposals will be listed on the Government Electronic Tenders Service (GETS).
Testing traps for animal welfare
This project is testing commercial predator traps against the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee’s (NAWAC) guidelines for animal welfare. It’s important targeted predators such as rats, possums and stoats do not suffer unnecessarily when trapped as we work to protect our threatened native species and towards predator free goals. The DOC best practice guidance recommends traps that meet the animal welfare guidelines be used in preference to those that don’t. Testing is not mandatory, and this project aims to increase the range of traps available to trappers that meet the guidelines.
The Tools to Market programme is funding the testing of up to five different types of traps each year for three years from 2022 – a total of up to 15 traps.
The four traps listed below were tested in round one against the following target species. None achieved an overall pass for the species mentioned but may have passed for other target species in a separate test.
- BT200 trap for Norway rat
- Ka Mate trap for Ship rat and Norway rat
- SA 3 trap for Possum
- DOC 150 for Ship rat
Test results have been communicated with the trap manufacturers and published by MWLR. The results identify aspects of the trap system that could be adjusted to make it consistently more effective. Manufacturers can submit a modified version of the trap to be considered for selection and retesting. See the full report (PDF, 2,968 K) for more details on the methodology and pass requirements
Up to five additional or modified traps will be tested in 2022/2023, with selection made by a panel of DOC technical experts based on prioritisation principles and mandatory criteria.
Research lead: Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research
Development of an aerially deployed biodegradable rat trap
DOC and Predator Free 2050 Ltd are co-funding the development of a biodegradable rat trap that can be distributed by air to contribute to a predator free Aotearoa.
The aerial micro-trap, which will be designed by conservation technology company Goodnature, stands to be revolutionary for predator control. The trap, still at concept stage, would be dropped by helicopter or drone to target ship and Norway rats across the landscape. After single use, it would then biodegrade into the environment. The aerial micro-trap has the potential to be a cost-effective solution for suppressing rats at landscape scale along with remote and difficult to access locations. Goodnature will design, build, and test a prototype for the micro-trap, in collaboration with DOC. If the product proves feasible, the trap would be produced and sold by the company following this process.
Government funding of $1.3 million over five years for the development of the micro-trap will come from DOC’s Tools to Market programme and Predator Free 2050 Ltd’s Products to Projects fund, backed by the Provincial Growth Fund. Goodnature will also invest significantly in the project.
Research lead: Goodnature Ltd
- Tiny biodegradable rat traps: can be dropped by drone, and leave no trace – Stuff article
- Flying, biodegradable rat traps – Goodnature Blog
- Aerial traps could be a game-changer to help restore nature - Media release by the Minister of Conservation
This project is working on a new pre-made stoat bait containing the toxin PAPP (para-aminopropiophenone) that is easy to use and can be applied from the air across large areas.
Pen trials are underway to test the efficacy of the ready-made baits, and if successful, field trials will follow. PAPP is already in use for stoat and feral cat control, however, it’s use is limited as it must be injected into balls of mincemeat to be used within 48 hours in bait stations.
A new pre-made bait that can be aerially applied would make PAPP easier to use and enable it to be applied across a larger area. PAPP in this form would be useful in forests and alpine areas where the number of rats and mice is too low for stoats to be controlled with 1080 (which relies on stoats being poisoned when they eat the rodents).
Research lead: DOC
Using drone technology to eradicate predators
The aim of this project is to harness the potential for drones to be a game-changer for pest control and eradication by investigating the use of an adapted heavy-lift drone to distribute pesticide baits.
The project will test how the drone performs in a series of field trials, using a new light-weight bait spreader to apply non-toxic cereal baits over areas between 600 to 2000 ha. It will look at the feasibility and costs of drone use for predator control as well as potential savings in carbon emissions from current aerial methods. Due to COVID-19 border restrictions progress on field trials has been delayed, scheduled to restart late 2022.
The project is also a case study on the Airspace Integration Programme led by MBIE.
Research lead: Envico Technologies (formerly Environment and Conservation Technologies, ECT)
Developing a long-life multi-species lure
This project began in August 2020 and seeks to develop long-life, non-toxic, non-perishable lure that can attract multiple species. The lure will be developed by testing the behavioural responses of seven species to a range of different compounds (including rats, mustelids and cats) followed by a series of bioassay trials to determine which are the best performing lures for prototype long-lure technologies.
The best lures will be incorporated into the (previously developed) encapsulation devices and tested in the field.
Research lead: University of Canterbury
- Developing long life lures to target pests - Stuff article
- Pest control that makes scents - University of Canterbury
- New pest lures to protect nature - Media release by the Minister of Conservation
Automated pest detection – PAWS ® pest identification sensor pad
This project aimed to develop a low-cost automated device (a sensor pad) to detect and identify pests. Used to alert managers of an invasion at pest-free islands and mainland islands, this device relied on the development of algorithms to accurately identify mustelids (stoats, ferrets and weasels).
Working prototypes were trialled in the field as part of the project and the accuracy checked with cameras. DOC remained closely involved throughout the testing and pre-production process.
The project closed in March 2022 after it failed to meet accuracy requirements for the Tools to Market use case. However, the work resulted in a device and technology that has the unique ability to identify a pest interaction from background activity. Research leads will assess if any further development work continues on the device.
Research leads: Lincoln Agritech Ltd, Boffa Miskell and Red Fern Solutions.
- Lincoln Agritech PAWS pest identification sensor pad
- High tech sensors new weapon in war on pests - NZ Herald
Bringing long-life rat lures to market
Controlling rats by attracting them to traps, particularly self-resetting traps, requires having sustained release, long-life lures available.
This Tools to Market project, led by Victoria University of Wellington, has successfully created lures that attract a number of rat species. The project is now complete.
Wellington UniVentures is now progressing the lures to develop products, which will be available commercially. The next steps include identifying the best encapsulation and dispensing technology, trials, cost analysis and full patent application. Once in place, the lures will be available to DOC and others to use where appropriate.
Research lead: Victoria University of Wellington
- Wellington researcher developing chemical pest lure for market - Stuff article
- Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan: Trapping pests - RNZ
Extending a Norway rat-selective pesticide to also target ship rats
Project funded: 2017
Project closed: December 2020
Research leads: Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research and Orillion Ltd
This project aimed to adapt the formulation and loading of a new pesticide to deliver a lethal dose to ship rats. The new pesticide is DR8, a derivative of norbormide.
The pesticide effectively controls Norway rats but ship rats are not as susceptible. Ship rats are the dominant rat species in New Zealand forests.
The project closed in December 2020 after it failed to meet efficacy targets for ship rats. However, the work has resulted in bait improvements for both Norway and ship rat species. The researchers are continuing work to improve the ability of DR8 to control ship rats.
Research leads: Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research and Orillion Ltd
New methods to evaluate the vulnerability of native birds to PAPP
This project developed a method to estimate the susceptibility of New Zealand native birds to PAPP (para-aminopropiophenone). If PAPP is to be used in baits for predator control and applied from the air (see ‘Development of a new bait to control stoats using PAPP’), it is essential to have a good understanding of how the toxin would affect our native birds if they accidentally ate it.
Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research and Nocturnal Wildlife Research Pty Ltd successfully developed a non-lethal method and model for assessing the risk to native birds by predicting the lethal PAPP dose for specific species without requiring a lethal dose. The project was completed in July 2022.
Nine bird species in total were involved in the trials (domestic chicken, domestic duck, Japanese quail, black-backed gull, pukeko, eastern rosella (as a proxy for kea), takahē, brown kiwi and weka). The trials found that of the nine species, brown kiwi and weka were the most sensitive to PAPP. The outcomes from the trial will be used as part of the risk assessment within the PAPP stoat bait project.
Research lead: Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research