Science and technologies are constantly evolving, which is great news for large-scale, complex eradication projects like Predator Free Rakiura. We can learn so much from other island eradication projects, but we can also gain a lot of knowledge from innovative trials that are happening right now, including on Rakiura.
An automated system targeted at rodents, mustelids and possums, the AutoDispense Lure dispenses an egg-mayo mix at pre-determined times and is designed to last for up to a year, drastically reducing the labour costs involved in rebaiting. Plus, the device will fit with both existing and new technologies.
Long-life lures are also being developed as a cost-effective alternative to food-based baits, which deteriorate quickly. Using a solid-state, biodegradable plastic polymer block, different treatments are being developed and tested to ensure the block is long-lasting and as attractive as fresh bait to target predators.
The ‘Flexi-comms’ system is being developed to process inputs from traps and monitoring devices and then transmit data to the cloud using Bluetooth, Wifi, cellular and satellite communications for remote data reporting and management systems.
This highly sensitive back country detection camera is expected to significantly reduce the costs associated with camera-based detection, from $60/ha/year to $10/ha/year. The device, which is based on a thermal camera coupled with on-board Artificial Intelligence software and remote reporting functionality, aims to identify possums, rats and stoats while providing real-time notification of detection to help protect remote predator-free landscapes.
In March and April 2021, field trials using non-toxic chicken and rabbit sausage baits were conducted between the Murray River and Saddle Point on the north-east coast of Rakiura to test their palatability for both target and non-target species. Footage from trail cameras indicates cats eat the baits, but possums and rats also did, which are not susceptible, limiting bait availability for cats. No deer or native birds ate the baits.
Current control methods for stoats and feral cats such as trapping and 1080 baiting can be effective, but they do have limitations. PAPP is a carnivore-specific toxin that kills target animals quickly and humanely, generally poses a low risk to non-target species, does not bioaccumulate, and has an antidote.