The science behind a predator-free NZ
Tucked away on one of Lincoln University's research farms, scientists are busy developing new devices to fight predators.
The research facility was built by Zero Invasive Predators Ltd (ZIP) and funded by investment from a group of dairy companies made up of Fonterra, Synlait, Tatua, Open Country, Westland and Miraka. ZIP is using the 200 metre by 100 metre predator-fenced enclosure as a testing ground to develop and evaluate the effectiveness of a broad range of rat, stoat and possum control technologies.
ZIP aims to completely remove rats, stoats and possums from large areas of the mainland, and to keep them out.
The site includes an predator enclosure that allows trials of new technology to more rapidly take pest-control concepts through to real world solutions.
ZIP animal behaviour technician Tim Sjoberg said the enclosure was ideal as it gave the animals room to "stretch their legs and act as wild as possible".
Research is also underway on lowering the height of predator fences to that of a standard 1.1m farm fence, which has huge potential to exclude rats, possums and stoats from farms and dairy production sites.
He said if the trial proved successful, the fence could replace existing farm fences.
Department of Conservation and ZIP principal scientist Elaine Murphy said the project looks at a variety of "remove and protect" methods, including lures, traps, deterrents, and detection devices.
One of the lures uses dacron bedding from the stoat enclosure.
"Now we have shown it's attractive, we have to identify the chemical compounds that are attractive to the stoats."
Although the bedding is successful as a lure, the scent does not remain in the fibres. Food and plants are also tested as lures. The successful lures will be broken down to find the attractive chemicals that then could be used as part of a trapping system.
University of Waikato doctoral student Bridgette Farnworth is looking into whether light could be used to help keep nocturnal rodents away from conservation areas.
Part of the Lincoln research site has been set up as a "farm gate", installing four strong LED lights on posts to test whether the light can deter rats, mice, and other rodents from areas where there are no predator fences.
"Rodents are a prey species, even under bright moonlight they can reduce their movements," Farnworth said.
Her research will also gauge the effect the light has on other wildlife.
"We should be looking at animal behaviours and using that to create a deterrent."
ZIP chief executive Al Bramley said the facility allowed researchers to test things on a proper scale.
"We have all these projects on the go - some will tip over, others will go ahead."
Bramley said the end goal was developing the best system to remove and deter predators.