Image of rolling Waikato hills

Waikato pest distribution, detectability studied

A recent study by Brandon Breedt and Carolyn King provides the first estimates of the proportion of the Waikato Region occupied by each of the target introduced mammal predator species. The results offer a warning to pest managers that pests are more widespread and harder to remove than is commonly assumed, and that the absence … Continue reading Waikato pest distribution, detectability studied

Close up photo of Ruddy Turnstone

Banding aims to uncover turnstone migration mystery

It’s a bit like putting a message in a bottle – banding migratory birds and seeing where else in the world those specific bands are spotted by fellow birdwatchers. But it has a purpose that goes beyond curiosity about migration routes. Many migratory birds are declining in numbers. So where on their global travels is … Continue reading Banding aims to uncover turnstone migration mystery

A deer in amongst leaves

Monitoring shows ungulates increasing on public conservation land

Not all introduced mammals are predators. Apart from omnivorous pigs, the 14 types of ungulate (hooved) mammals introduced here over the years are all plant-grazers of one sort or another. But restoring habitat and removing predators go hand-in-hand if we’re to reverse the downward spiral of our native wildlife. Large, heavy-hooved browsing mammals can damage … Continue reading Monitoring shows ungulates increasing on public conservation land

Goat Island from the mainland

Goat Island rat abundance measured in multiple ways

Markus Gronwald and James Russell from the University of Auckland recently measured rat relative abundance on Goat Island, 70km north of Auckland. Both camera traps and digital strike counters for Goodnature A24 self-resetting traps were used and the results compared. A total of 7155 videos, more than 119 hours of footage, from 2161 camera days … Continue reading Goat Island rat abundance measured in multiple ways

River tested as reinvasion obstacle to possums

Reinvasion by predators, of previously cleared areas, is one of the many challenges of becoming predator free. We can’t fence huge tracts of wilderness – but we can potentially make use of natural barriers. Possums, for example, may be reluctant to cross rivers. Anecdotal reports that rivers are an obstacle to possum expansion have been … Continue reading River tested as reinvasion obstacle to possums

Rifleman on a branch

Less stress = translocation success for tiny rifleman

Translocation is an important tool for conservation management – but it comes with risks. The capture and transfer process can be highly stressful to wildlife. Some individuals can and have died. Finding ways to reduce translocation stress can save lives. And the lives that are saved are often those of rare and endangered taonga. So … Continue reading Less stress = translocation success for tiny rifleman

Kiwi require specific bird count methods.

Know your bird calls – human brain vs hard-drive

It was human vs hard-drive in Rawhiti, Northland when researchers pitted volunteer bird enthusiasts of various ages and experience against Autonomous Recording Units (ARUs). Senses were pitted against sensors to see who (or what) was best at detecting and identifying calls. Both humans and machines had their strengths and weaknesses, the researchers found. Bird monitoring … Continue reading Know your bird calls – human brain vs hard-drive

Image of green countryside

When economics meets ecology – assessing the ‘ecosystem services’ of farmland

Wetland areas and covenanted bush blocks on farms have a clear ecological value, but do they have an economic value as well? The answer is yes. But that leads to another question. How can you assess the economic value of an area of wetland or remnant forest that isn’t producing saleable crops or providing grazing … Continue reading When economics meets ecology – assessing the ‘ecosystem services’ of farmland

A close up of beech trees

Blue Mountains study shows 1080 effective – even for hedgehogs, mice

In the past there’s been some uncertainty over the effectiveness of large-scale aerial 1080 operations to control mice and little is known about its effect on hedgehogs. Recent trail camera monitoring of mammal predators before and after a control operation in the Blue Mountains, West Otago, suggests the operation not only controlled rats, stoats and … Continue reading Blue Mountains study shows 1080 effective – even for hedgehogs, mice

NZ brushtail possum. Image credit.

Dual 1080 bait switch solves bait-shy possum issues

When researchers tested a dual baiting regime on ship rats back in 2016-2017, they also made some interesting observations about possum behaviour in their study area. Could dual baiting be adapted to overcome the bait-shy behaviour of possum survivors too? Department of Conservation and Landcare Research scientists, Graham Nugent, Richard Clayton, Bruce Warburton and Tim … Continue reading Dual 1080 bait switch solves bait-shy possum issues

A rat eating a snail

Rats on the move – how far do they disperse?

How far might young rats disperse if they find themselves in a place with few other rat competitors? It’s an important question, with implications for deciding what surveillance is needed to detect invasions in predator-free islands, sanctuaries and ultimately, large predator-free mainland areas. But to find out how far rats disperse you need to release … Continue reading Rats on the move – how far do they disperse?

Close up of gull against a grey sky

Drone technology offers low impact method for seabird census

The Ashburton/Hakatere River mouth in Mid Canterbury is a nesting site for large colonies of black-billed gulls and white-fronted terns and proved an ideal study site for testing the bird census capabilities of an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) compared to more traditional bird count methods. When the results came in, the researchers made a bonus … Continue reading Drone technology offers low impact method for seabird census

two rūrū sit on a branch

Researchers tackle challenge of monitoring rūrū

The rūrū is Aotearoa’s last remaining native owl. It’s not considered a threatened species. In fact, it’s reasonably common and widespread, especially in forested parts of the North Island and western South Island. But rūrū do tend to nest in tree cavities, which puts females at risk from introduced mammal predators. That’s a good reason … Continue reading Researchers tackle challenge of monitoring rūrū

A close up of a rabbit

Identifying impediments to PF goals

Achieving Predator Free 2050 goals will take more than just a scaling-up of eradication efforts according to researchers Duane Peltzer et al from Landcare Research (Lincoln) and the University of Canterbury. They look beyond economic and technological feasibility to identify the key impediments we need to overcome, in a paper recently published in the Journal … Continue reading Identifying impediments to PF goals

Māori Studies students surveyed on social acceptability of wasp control biotechnologies

Wasps and new technologies to control and eradicate them was the focus of a recent study at Victoria University of Wellington, seeking Māori Studies students’ perspectives of the social acceptability of novel biotechnologies. “Kaupapa Māori (KM) research includes a range of methodologies that reflect, or have been repurposed to put Māori values, aspirations and decolonising … Continue reading Māori Studies students surveyed on social acceptability of wasp control biotechnologies

National survey looks at ‘worldview’ and public attitudes to gene drive technologies

What do you know about gene drive technology? How do you feel about it? Would knowing more make you feel more supportive of gene drive as a future means of eradication? These were some of the questions posed in a recent study looking at public opinion towards gene drive and how it relates to people’s … Continue reading National survey looks at ‘worldview’ and public attitudes to gene drive technologies

A tutu bush

Native plants show potential as future rat toxins

Tuhoe researchers recently joined other scientists in evaluating naturally occurring toxins in native plants. Could one of those toxins provide a culturally acceptable alternative to existing rodenticides? The results of their study have just been published in the New Zealand Journal of Ecology. Anticoagulant poisons have been used to kill rats and mice for decades, … Continue reading Native plants show potential as future rat toxins

Image of cliffs and the water below

Would summer eradication of rodents work for Auckland Island?

Approximately one-third of New Zealand’s islands are now free of all invasive mammals. Could Auckland Island be next? Predator control and eradication operations are often carried out in winter – when predators are hungry and uptake of bait likely to be greater. But when it comes to eradications of sub-Antarctic islands, like Auckland Island, the … Continue reading Would summer eradication of rodents work for Auckland Island?

Dual 1080 application could be key to possum and rat eradication

Dual 1080 operations – would two toxin applications a few weeks apart work better than one? Possibly, if a few other conditions are also met. Currently, aerial 1080 drops are used to control introduced predators, but not expected to totally eliminate them. Aerial 1080 application is used to knock predator numbers right down and give … Continue reading Dual 1080 application could be key to possum and rat eradication

New toxin combination tested for rats and possums

Up until the 1950s, most pest control toxins for vertebrates, including rats, were fast-acting. While a quick death for pests is a good thing humane-wise, the issue was, rats didn’t necessarily die. They’d try a little toxin, quickly feel the effects and sensibly refuse to have anything more to do with it, before they’d consumed … Continue reading New toxin combination tested for rats and possums

Bird watchers in the forest

Citizen science monitoring method outlined and tested

Monitoring wildlife population densities in our ‘mainland island’ fenced sanctuaries is an important part of measuring sanctuary success and assessing the longterm costs and benefits of predator-exclusion fencing. Such fences don’t come cheap, after all. But finding and maintaining the funding, personnel and motivation for longterm monitoring projects can be a challenge. If specialist expertise … Continue reading Citizen science monitoring method outlined and tested

Landscape shot of Campbell Island

Review of conservation tools under development

The Journal of Ornithology has just published a review of the conservation tools being developed for New Zealand’s Predator Free 2050 eradication programme. The paper’s authors, Elaine Murphy (DOC and Zero Invasive Predators – ZIP), James Russell (ZIP and University of Auckland), Keith Broome (DOC), Grant Ryan (Cacophany Project) and John Dowding (DM Consultants) are … Continue reading Review of conservation tools under development

Kōkako genetics investigated

Translocations have been an important part of North Island kōkako population recovery, but when you’re obtaining your founding birds from small relict populations it’s important to maintain and even improve genetic diversity. University of Otago Zoology Masters graduate Meghan Milner-Jones studied the genetics of kōkako in her 2018 Masters thesis, available online through ‘OUR Archive’. … Continue reading Kōkako genetics investigated

Study seeks future homes for kākāpō

The kākāpō population is outgrowing its island refuge – but where might future kākāpō live? In a predator free future, the answer could include protected mainland sites provided there are sites that are big enough, safe enough and with the right kind of habitat for kakapo to thrive. If those likely sites can be identified … Continue reading Study seeks future homes for kākāpō

A kiwi being held

Long-range study follows kiwi for 22 years

A 22-year study in Tongariro Forest has followed 142 radio-tagged North Island brown kiwi through 4 landscape-scale aerial 1080 operations, covering an area of 20,000 hectares. Not only did all 142 kiwi survive the 1080 drops, but the long-term study reveals a swag of other interesting information on kiwi chick survival and fantail nesting success … Continue reading Long-range study follows kiwi for 22 years

A rat eating a snail

New clues in the search for synthetic lures

Peanut butter is the standard rat attractant – and apparently, they’re pretty keen on chocolate and Nutella too. But researchers at Victoria University of Wellington’s ‘Centre for Biodiversity and Restoration Ecology’ have come up with some chemical compounds that wild rats seem to rate even better than peanut butter. The quest for an irresistible rat … Continue reading New clues in the search for synthetic lures

Image of a kiore rat in some dry grass or hay

Rat genetics tracks invasion back through time

New Zealand researchers have been taking a closer look at the family histories of Man’s long-time travelling companion – the rat. Genealogy meets gene analysis in this study, carried out by Auckland University researchers James Russell, Judith Robins and Rachel Fewster and published this month in the international journal Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution. Kiore … Continue reading Rat genetics tracks invasion back through time

A community stall promoting trapping

Community groups under the microscope

Has your community group identified specific longterm conservation goals? What outcomes do you expect to see from the many hours of volunteer work that your team puts in? Have you thought about how your project contributes to the wider New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy? In a recent report published in the New Zealand Journal of Ecology, … Continue reading Community groups under the microscope

A kea on a rock

Kea survival during aerial 1080 – identifying the risks

Predator control in kea habitat is mostly by aerial 1080 – and some kea are known to have died from eating the bait. It’s not an outcome that anyone wants to see. So what are the risk factors? What might be done to mitigate those risks and why do leading conservationists, including kea experts, think … Continue reading Kea survival during aerial 1080 – identifying the risks

A Mercury Island tusked wētā amongst leaf litter

How a tusked, carnivorous weta was saved

The research happened a decade ago now – this paper was published back in 2008 – but how many people have even heard of the large, carnivorous Mercury Island tusked weta (Motuweta isolata), let alone the extraordinary story of its step back from the cliff-face of extinction? Despite its large size (adult body length 46–73 … Continue reading How a tusked, carnivorous weta was saved

A mouse burrowing

Researchers study new ways to stop bait going mouldy

It’s not quite a sugar-coated pill, but the principle is similar – a nice flavoured coating that not only encourages rodents to take the bait, but also protects the toxic cereal bait within from deteriorating over time and going mouldy. Norway rats, in particular, have been found to avoid mouldy bait. Research recently published in … Continue reading Researchers study new ways to stop bait going mouldy

Lessons learned in combating mice on Quail Island

Canterbury’s Quail Island Ecological Restoration Trust has been working with Department of Conservation staff and researchers from Lincoln and other universities to eradicate introduced mammals from the island and document their processes, successes and learning outcomes in an article recently published in the New Zealand Journal of Zoology. “Ōtamahua/Quail Island is an 85 ha Recreation … Continue reading Lessons learned in combating mice on Quail Island

Bait consumption study shows what appeals to rats

D-Block bait and DITRAC All-Weather BLOX are two commonly used, long-life rodent baits with the same active ingredient, the anticoagulant Diphacinone. Rats and mice need to consume bait over several days to get a lethal dose, so it’s important to keep them coming back for more. Although the toxin is the same, the two bait … Continue reading Bait consumption study shows what appeals to rats

A group of people planting along the coastline

Upscaling restoration – 8 things to consider

Public conservation land is only a small proportion of the total land of New Zealand and isn’t necessarily representative of the full range of ecosystems. David Norton (School of Forestry, University of Canterbury, Jason Butt (Environment Canterbury) and David Bergin (Environmental Restoration Ltd) look at how we can sustain and enhance native biodiversity on private … Continue reading Upscaling restoration – 8 things to consider

Rat poisons and human medicines have natural links

Like many modern-day medicines, rodenticides are often derived from natural sources. Plants may evolve toxic chemicals to protect them from grazers for example, and sometimes all that distinguishes a beneficial drug from a toxic poison is the dosage. In a recent issue of the NZ Journal of Zoology, Charles Eason, ecologist with Lincoln University (Lincoln) … Continue reading Rat poisons and human medicines have natural links

Eradication – what about the social impacts?

Predator Free Great Barrier or Stewart Island? It’s already technically feasible. But is it socially feasible?When it comes to complete eradication of predators on inhabited islands there’s a lot more to consider than just the conservation benefits and technical aspects. People, their livestock, their pets and their lifestyle are all going to be impacted. In … Continue reading Eradication – what about the social impacts?

Tools for a predator-free future

The technology associated with Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) is getting smart and sophisticated. These intriguing little machines are more than just Christmas toys. High-end models are proving their worth in a whole variety of ways including detecting water deficiencies in agricultural crops and mapping invasive species. They’re even being trialled as a delivery method by … Continue reading Tools for a predator-free future

A person sets up a camera trap

Detecting predators in the city – what works best?

Tracking tunnels, chew cards and WaxTags© are commonly used to detect predator presence and monitor abundance, but in recent years there’s been a new tool in the conservation kit – the remote camera. Evaluations of its use are showing that it is a tool with a lot of promise and some significant advantages over traditional … Continue reading Detecting predators in the city – what works best?

Two rats in hay

Do rats mind inky feet?

Rats are fastidious groomers. So how does an animal that grooms frequently react to the prospect of running through viscous tracking ink? Are rats reluctant to get their feet dirty – and if so, what are the implications for tracking tunnel monitoring? Prof. Carolyn King and fellow researchers at the School of Science, University of Waikato … Continue reading Do rats mind inky feet?

A24 vs Stoats – island experiment deemed a success

The A24 self-resetting trap has been around for a year or two now, but development of the product and testing of its capabilities continues, along with evaluations of how best to utilise the traps in ‘real world’ predator eradications. Darren Peters from DOC, along with the team from Goodnature have recently been putting A24s to … Continue reading A24 vs Stoats – island experiment deemed a success

Robin perched on a branch

Conservation geneticists want to build a bridge to DOC

Conservation genetics has implications for all sorts of conservation measures. Whether it be choosing the source birds for a translocation to a new sanctuary to ensure sufficient genetic diversity, ‘forensic’ type investigations to identify the source of a newly arrived predator on an island (where a swimming stoat has come from, for example), or research … Continue reading Conservation geneticists want to build a bridge to DOC

A rat amongst leaf litter

What’s the story with genetic pest management (GPM)?

Breakthrough genetic technologies are likely to play a key role in achieving a predator-free future. But it’s important that we understand what the various technologies are now – as they’re being developed – not when they’re about to be implemented. We need to debate the issues and become as informed as possible; to know if … Continue reading What’s the story with genetic pest management (GPM)?

Close up of a brown rat

Genome-mining to find toxins that are species-selective

A predator-free New Zealand is going to require landscape scale removal of possums, rats, ferrets, stoats and weasels – and possibly other species such as mice and feral cats as well. The problem – or at least one of the problems – is how do you humanely remove some species without endangering others that share … Continue reading Genome-mining to find toxins that are species-selective

Predator scent may be key to developing long-life lures

When scientists Patrick Garvey (University of Auckland), Alistair Glen and Roger Pech (Landcare Research, Lincoln) tested the response of 18 wild-caught stoats to the scents of bigger, dominant predators, the response of the stoats was the opposite of what they expected. The researchers used towels from the bedding of ferrets and cats (familiar top-order predators) … Continue reading Predator scent may be key to developing long-life lures

Canadian researchers come up with innovative rat-luring techniques

Rats are a uniquely serious problem on islands such as New Zealand where there has been a rodent-free evolution of our wildlife and plantlife, but scientists around the world are also looking for better ways to control rats because of their disease-carrying and food-spoilage attributes. Black (ship) rats with their tree-climbing abilities are New Zealand’s … Continue reading Canadian researchers come up with innovative rat-luring techniques

Raptors vs aliens – might it work?

‘Raptors vs aliens’ – it sounds like the latest Hollywood blockbuster, but it’s actually the title of a paper published in the NZ Journal of Zoology at the end of last year. Written by NZ Landcare Research scientists A.S. Glen and R.P. Pech, along with two Australian authors, the research investigates the complex relationship between … Continue reading Raptors vs aliens – might it work?

Alternative bird survey method investigated

‘Citizen Science’ and academia worked together in a research project near Nelson to determine the effectiveness of a predator control programme in boosting bird numbers and also to evaluate the usefulness of a bird survey method as an easy-to-use monitoring tool for volunteer conservation groups. The study was carried out from 2002-2010 and published in … Continue reading Alternative bird survey method investigated

Tracking cats on Rakiura/Stewart Island

While PFNZ Trust focuses on 5 key introduced predator species (possums, rats, ferrets, stoats and weasels), we acknowledge that domestic pets – both cats and dogs – are also introduced predators and are potential killers of native wildlife if allowed to stray. Wandering dogs can and do kill kiwi and penguins when they encounter them. … Continue reading Tracking cats on Rakiura/Stewart Island

Genetic profiling reveals source of invaders

Genetic profiling sounds like something from a crime thriller, but it is a modern scientific technique that can be used to better understand the dispersal behaviour of animals and relationships between various populations. Auckland’s various stoat population were recently the subject of a genetic profiling study which revealed intriguing information about connectivity and migration. Female … Continue reading Genetic profiling reveals source of invaders

Measuring biodiversity outcomes

A huge effort has gone into controlling possums across New Zealand for a number of years, particularly with respect to TB eradication efforts, but what do we know about the overall biodiversity outcomes? Are we on top of the problem? Has native biodiversity benefited long-term from the war waged against TB or are short-term benefits … Continue reading Measuring biodiversity outcomes

Catching rats – getting the basics right

This is not about an amazing scientific breakthrough in new toxins or lures. It doesn’t reveal a science-fiction-like technological invention or genetic modification to wipe out predators. Such things happen rarely in the world of science. But what the following research projects show is that the old methods (with some modern modifications and monitoring techniques) … Continue reading Catching rats – getting the basics right

Pest-free future under the microscope

In a paper just published online (and not available in print until 2017), some of New Zealand’s top conservation scientists review the prospects for control and eventual eradication of our key mammalian pests. John Parkes, Graham Nugent, David Forsyth, Andrea Byrom, Roger Pech, Bruce Warburton and David Choquenot have written a comprehensive paper looking at … Continue reading Pest-free future under the microscope

GPS offers aerial application alternative

Science isn’t just about the big breakthroughs – although they’re great when they happen. Mostly it’s about challenging assumptions, testing alternatives and finding new and better ways to do things. Change is incremental and improvements are constantly being integrated into the way things are done. Something might be working already, but is there another way … Continue reading GPS offers aerial application alternative

Rapid eradication assessment – with online app

Just because you’re not catching anything, doesn’t necessarily mean all predators have been eradicated. Being certain that an area is completely predator-free is a challenge in island eradications where certainty is needed before endangered species can be reintroduced. But the problem also applies to mainland pest operations – how can you be sure you’ve been … Continue reading Rapid eradication assessment – with online app

Influencing conservation behaviour – the role of social psychology

How do you change public behaviour – for example, persuade cat owner’s to bring their pets inside? Is education the answer? Is education enough? If people just knew more about conservation issues would they become supporters and adopt conservation values themselves? Not necessarily. The reality is not everyone cares – and if they don’t care … Continue reading Influencing conservation behaviour – the role of social psychology

Doing the sums – what are the best predator control options?

Research and innovation mean that the options for helping out our native species are increasing all the time. First there were small, predator free island sanctuaries, then bigger islands and then there was Zealandia – the world’s first fully fenced urban ecosanctuary. Mainland sanctuaries are now being developed across New Zealand – but there is … Continue reading Doing the sums – what are the best predator control options?

Trojan Possums – are they the next step?

It’s called the Trojan Female Technique and it’s involves a mutation in females that makes all their male offspring infertile. Because it is a gene, not a virus, it stays within that particular species and is spread from one generation to the next by breeding, not by disease. It has the potential to wipe out … Continue reading Trojan Possums – are they the next step?

Detecting predators – can you count on chew-track-cards and WaxTags?

Fundamental to a well-managed pest control programme is detecting what predators you have and monitoring the changes in abundance as your trapping regime progresses. Leg hold traps are a traditional way to achieve this, but may not be sensitive to possum presence when possum levels are at very low abundance. Recently published research puts two … Continue reading Detecting predators – can you count on chew-track-cards and WaxTags?

New ways to combat possums

Rest assured, New Zealand’s scientific community are beavering away to find new and better ways to combat possums. These are just a few of the research reports investigating possum control recently published in the New Zealand Journal of Ecology. Firstly a poison bait evaluation was carried out in a joint project by researchers from Connovation … Continue reading New ways to combat possums

Braided rivers and predator monitoring

Braided river systems are rare throughout the world, but we have some superb examples in New Zealand, particularly in the Canterbury and Southland regions. New Zealand’s braided riverbeds are breeding grounds for some very special wildlife including the wrybill – the only bird in the world with a bent beak – and the very rare … Continue reading Braided rivers and predator monitoring