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  • Writer's pictureForest Lifeforce

Radical new killer goes bush

Self-setting’ design set to take the legwork out of trapping

A radical new way of trapping and killing stoats, ferrets, weasels and rats is being trialled in Hawke’s Bay. The first of many ‘self-setting’ devices developed by the Forest Lifeforce Restoration (FLR) Trust and Lincoln University’s Centre for Wildlife Management and Conservation (CWMC) are being placed in the Maungataniwha Native Forest, south of Te Urewera National Park, today.

The innovative design combines a trap and a killing mechanism in a single device. It catches a pest, poisons it and then releases it, before re-setting itself in preparation for its next victim. The poisoned animal then disappears into the bush to die.

The device can kill up to [XXX] animals before the poison applicator needs to be recharged.

Several prototypes, based on ideas and input from FLR Trust staff, were developed by the CWMC in a two-year, $160,000 project funded jointly by the Trust and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. They were all developments on, or modifications of, existing techniques and designs favoured by the Department of Conservation.

The final design was selected after thorough testing at the CWMC.

“We’ve had a lot of input from right across the New Zealand conservation sector so we’re keen now to see how effective the result is,” said Simon Hall, Chairman of the FLR Trust.

Hall said he hoped the FLR Trust killing device design would prove to be “the nuclear option” conservationists were looking for.

“Literally millions of dollars have been spent fairly recently on finding ways to deal effectively with mustelids so there are quite a few designs and solutions in use at the moment. Most are still fairly labour intensive, trap-based systems, however, and few are as reliable and effective as conservationists would like them to be.”

Existing traps either have to be set manually, or cleared of their victims. This soaks up thousands of man-hours which aren’t available any longer to the Department of Conservation (DOC), regional councils and other conservation authorities and organisations across the country.

“We’ve automated the process and a single one of our devices can go on trapping, poisoning and releasing pests to die for a full [XX] months before it needs to be visited and the poison recharged,” he said.

Broad-scale, effective mustelid control is the next big issue for mainland conservation in New Zealand, Hall said.

“It’s hard to exaggerate the colossal damage these things are doing to our native species and the strain they’re placing on the many conservation programmes in place across the country. Kiwi, whio, kaka, kereru – they’re all on the mustelid hit-list. And they’re frighteningly effective little killers.”

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