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.

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About the programme

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).

Projects underway

Testing traps for animal welfare

This project will test 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 will fund 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 test results will be provided to trap manufacturers and the public when available.

Research lead: Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research

More information:

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

More information:

Development of a new bait to control stoats using PAPP

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 across larger areas than existing PAPP bait from the air.

An initial bait station trial was completed in 2019 and a second is underway before moving onto hand laid and finally, if all goes to plan, aerial trials that will test the effectiveness of the new bait when aerially deployed.  PAPP is already in use for stoat and feral cat control however it must be made and injected into balls of mincemeat to be used within 48 hours in bait stations.

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). 

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 native birds to PAPP. If PAPP is to be applied from the air (see project above), it is essential to have a good understanding of how the toxin would affect our native birds if they accidentally ate it.

The methods in development include 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 would then be extrapolated to how PAPP would affect a bird at higher doses.

Research lead: Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research

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)

More information:

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

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Projects completed

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.

More information:

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

More information:

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

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