War on predators takes big leap

SALLY KIDSON
Last updated 13:39 03/11/2012
predator traps
predator traps

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A self-setting gas-powered rat and stoat trap being trialled at Nelson Lakes National Park could revolutionise predator control in remote areas of New Zealand.

A two-year trial of the A24 trap was launched at St Arnaud yesterday.

More than 800 of the traps will be be trialled in the Rotoiti Nature Recovery Project for two years. Three other "mainland islands" in the North Island will carry out their own trials.

The traps can be activated 24 times before they need to be serviced, compared with the DOC 200 traps which are currently used. Once a DOC 200 is sprung, it has to be manually re-set.

The A24 traps, which have passed animal welfare standards, can repeatedly kill and re-set themselves before they need to be serviced.

Department of Conservation scientific officer Craig Gillies said the A24 had the potential to be a massive change in the way DOC carried out predator control, and could result in significant savings in the amount of time spent checking trap lines.

For example, some of the trap lines at St Arnaud were checked fortnightly, but with the new self-setting trap, lines could need to be checked only once or twice a year.

Great spotted kiwi have been re-introduced successfully to the nature recovery programme at St Arnaud and are producing chicks.

Kiwi chicks are at risk of predation until they are about a year old, so to ensure the new trap lines are working and protecting the kiwi and other birds, DOC will be monitoring the area so stoat and rat levels remain at the low levels needed to protect the species.

If the two-year trial is successful, the traps could be used in more areas across New Zealand.

DOC has been working with the maker of the traps, Good Nature, for more than a year, and is impressed with the success of the trap and the way it is working.

Each trap is baited with a rabbit lure.

DOC is already one year into a trial involving a gas-powered trap that targets possums.

The department does trapping over 5000 hectares at St Arnaud and works closely with volunteer group Friends of Rotoiti, which carries out trapping over a further 5000ha.

DOC St Arnaud Nature Recovery project team leader Grant Harper said the department worked closely with Friends of Rotoiti, which had helped with the rollout of the new traps.

Friends of Rotoiti had come up with some innovative ideas, he said, including modifying the tunnel used for the DOC 200 trap to use with the A24, to prevent non-target species like weka from getting caught.

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Mr Harper said the new traps would ensure that DOC staff could divert more energy into other aspects of the recovery project at St Arnaud.

In 2010, the Government and the Green Party signed a Memorandum of Understanding and announced a $4 million trial to test self-resetting traps.

Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson and Green Party conservation spokeswoman Eugenie Sage were at yesterday's launch of the trial at St Arnaud.

More information about the traps can be found on the Good Nature website.

- The Nelson Mail

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