New pest lures to protect nature

The Department of Conservation (DOC) is investing $1.4 million to develop new predator lures that would be game-changers for trapping and surveillance towards a predator-free Aotearoa, the Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage, announced in Christchurch today.

The proposal is to develop long-life lures attractive to a range of predators—rats, mustelids and feral cats—for use in traps and predator monitoring equipment such as tracking tunnels.

“In New Zealand we currently rely on food-based baits or lures for trapping such as peanut butter. They generally only attract one or two types of predators and quickly degrade becoming unattractive,” said Eugenie Sage.

“Being able to use convenient compound-based lures to attract most predators for long periods, would be a game changer for trapping and predator detection.

“Such lures would be a boon to volunteers and professional trappers alike. They could be used across a range of traps and monitoring devices that target different predators. They would also allow traps to be serviced less frequently, saving time and money. They would also make predator surveillance in remote places easier.

“We need new tools and technologies for humane, effective and affordable predator control to enable our native wildlife and plants to thrive,” she said.

Led by Dr Michael Jackson, the University of Canterbury project is to develop multi-species predator lures, effective for 6-12 months. The non-toxic lures will be made from compounds identified in foods and animals’ social odours, encased in a small portable device to slowly release over time.

The influence of different foods and social odours on the behaviour of seven predator species—stoats, ferrets and weasels, Norway, ship and kiore/Pacific rats, and feral cats—will be tested. Potential compounds will then be identified and tested, including blends of promising compounds. Proven compounds will be evaluated in field trials with partner groups using a range of traps, tracking tunnels and emerging ‘smart’ monitoring devices capable of working remotely.     

DOC’s Tools to Market programme will invest $1.4 million in the lures over three years.

The project builds on the researcher’s previous successful development of a long-life lure for rats - a world-first for a mammal - previously funded by DOC. These lures, developed at Victoria University of Wellington, are currently being commercialised by Wellington UniVentures.

The lure joins a proposal funded earlier this year to test the capability of a specially designed drone to apply cereal baits for predator control. Another proposal for funding is still under consideration.

“This Government is supporting the research sector and innovative companies to develop break-through technologies, which can then be brought to market, to help restore our indigenous biodiversity.”

The Government initially allocated the Tools to Market programme $700,000 per year over four years. Budget 2018 committed an extra $700,000 over four years (total $5.6 million).

DOC received 56 applications for the current Tools to Market funding round after a call for registrations of interest in May 2019. 

Five projects have previously been funded through Tools to Market in 2017 and 2018 and are in development including a long-life rat lure and PAWS® pest identification sensor pad.