Ranger Joe Waikari shows GPS trapping technology to school students

Image: Trudi Ngawhare | DOC


This programme is investing in the development of new predator control tools and technology to support Predator Free 2050.

New and improved toxins, baits and delivery systems are some of the options being considered to speed up the suppression and eradication of predators across New Zealand. Better monitoring and data management tools are also needed.

DOC's Tools to Market supports the trials, engineering, construction, registration, hazard assessment and other work that is needed in the short to medium term (1–5 years) to develop the new tools.

Tools to Market aims to move products from research and development, through prototype testing at a landscape scale, to making them fully operational – and in the hands of community groups and professional operators.

The programme has three 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.

Tools to Market was initially allocated approximately $700,000 per annum across four years as part of Predator Free 2050. Five projects were begun in 2017 and in Budget 2018 the Government committed a further $700,000 per annum across four years to improve the current predator control tools.

Project funding 2019

Three categories for investment were developed to guide the 2019 funding decisions:

  • Effective techniques for detecting predators at low densities.
  • Effective predator removal.
  • Protecting the gains, eg preventing reinvasion of predators without impeding the movement of native species and domestic stock.

The categories were developed by DOC and its project partners, including PF2050 Ltd, Predator Free NZ Trust, Zero Invasive Predators, Te Tira Whakamātaki, the Biological Heritage National Science Challenge, OSPRI and regional councils.

The opportunity to apply was advertised on the GETS website and applications closed on 16 May. Funded projects will be published on this page later in the year.

Projects underway

These projects were funded in previous years.

Development of a new bait to control stoats using PAPP

This project is working on a new stoat bait that contains the toxin PAPP (para-aminopropiophenone). PAPP is already used for stoat and feral cat control but must be made and injected into balls of minced meat and used within 48 hours.

A new pre-made bait would make PAPP easier to use and enable it to be applied across a larger area from the air. 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).

In early 2019, the project began to investigate the use of an encapsulated PAPP product for ferret control, which would also be effective for feral cats and stoats. Several field trials are planned for later in the year and if successful, registering the bait for aerial delivery will be progressed.

Research lead: DOC

New methods to evaluate the vulnerability of native birds to PAPP

This project is developing methods to estimate the susceptibility of New Zealand birds to PAPP. If PAPP is to be applied from the air (see project above), it is essential to know how the toxin would affect our native birds if they accidentally ate it.

The methods in development are based on creating an assay that uses tiny amounts (ideally less than 10 microlitres) of blood from the birds. Effects of different amounts of PAPP on the blood can then be extrapolated to how the toxin would affect a living bird. The chemical synthesis of a modified version of PAPP (a metabolite) may be contracted as part of this project.

Trials using other birds are planned initially. Blood samples from different native bird species that are already stored at zoos may also be used for testing the method. Ethics approval for this work is also required.

Research lead: Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research

Extending a Norway rat-selective pesticide to also target ship rats

A new pesticide that effectively controls Norway rats has been developed, but two other species of rat – kiore and ship rats – are also present in New Zealand. Ship rats are not as susceptible to the new pesticide as the Norway rat. This project is adapting the formulation and loading of the new pesticide to deliver a lethal dose to ship rats.

Research leads: Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research and Orillion Ltd

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 project has successfully created lures that attract a number of species and is now progressing through to making the products available commercially.

These next steps include identifying the best encapsulation and dispensing technology, trials, cost analysis and full patent application. Once in place, the lure will be available to DOC and its partners to use where appropriate.

Research lead: Victoria University of Wellington

More information:

Automated pest detection – print acquisition for wildlife surveillance (PAWS)

This project is developing a low-cost automated device (a sensor pad) to detect and identify pests. It could be used to alert managers of an invasion at pest-free islands and mainland islands. The device relies on the development of algorithms to accurately identify mustelids (stoats, ferrets and weasels).

Once a prototype is built, it will be trialled in the field and its accuracy checked with cameras. DOC will remain closely involved throughout the testing and pre-production process.

Research leads: Lincoln Agritech Ltd, Boffa Miskell and Red Fern Solutions.

More information:

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. 

What is learned from the project will be shared with MBIE, Civil Aviation Authority and Ministry of Transport via the Airspace Integration Programme being set up to establish a robust framework for developing and testing Umanned Aircraft and adjacent technologies.  It is anticipated that the project will in turn benefit from Civil Aviation Authority resources to help navigate the complex regulatory landscape for this emerging technology. 

Research lead: Environment and Conservation Technologies (ECT)

More information:

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