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ZIP opens predator research enclosure

ZIP opens predator research enclosure

A new invasive predator research facility officially opened in Lincoln today by Conservation Minister Maggie Barry is already producing promising results in the battle against rats, stoats and possums.

The 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 x 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.

Fonterra Group Environment Manager Francesca Eggleton says, “The need to control rats and possums carries a significant ongoing cost to New Zealand’s dairy industry. It makes sense for the industry to get behind ZIP’s efforts to remove these pests from the New Zealand mainland, for the protection of both rural incomes and New Zealand’s unique wildlife.”

ZIP Board Chair Devon McLean says the new research facility gives ZIP the ability to test new advances in predator control that will ultimately benefit both the conservation and rural sectors.

“The predator enclosure at Lincoln will play a key role in enabling ZIP to rapidly develop new technology to remove invasive predators and their impact on our native species and the New Zealand economy. Rats alone are estimated to kill 26 million native bird chicks and eggs every year, so there really is no time to waste,” he says. “ZIP can trial new technologies at the Lincoln predator enclosure before taking the R & D that shows promise forward to a “real world” situation.”

The facility was created as part of a wider collaboration between ZIP and Lincoln University, which includes working with Ecology Department staff and students to research and develop solutions for some of the bigger challenges in invasive predator management.

ZIP’s current R & D focus includes lures, detection devices, traps and deterrents. Mr McLean says that research into “social” stoat lures, whereby oestrous bedding material from stoats on heat is used to attract animals (rather than the more standard food-based lures), is one area showing promise.

“Our camera trials are showing over 90% of stoats seem to be attracted to these “social” lures. While testing is at an early stage this has the potential to significantly improve, perhaps even double, the success rate in attracting stoats to traps,” he says.

Research is also underway in areas such as predator fencing with a focus on lowering the height of predator fences to that of a standard 1.1m farm fence. This has great potential for the exclusion of rats, possums and stoats from farms and dairy production sites. Additionally, ZIP is looking into a number of methods (including a range of deterrents) to defend permanent openings in predator fences, which could further ready these barriers for application in rural settings by enabling them to cross roads and waterways.

ZIP was established in February 2015 as a charitable research and development entity focused on transforming the way invasive predators are managed in New Zealand. It is testing and refining technologies that will allow the complete removal of rats, stoats, and possums at landscape scale for the long term, sustainable protection of native biodiversity. In addition to the Dairy companies, ZIP’s investors include the NEXT Foundation, Department of Conservation, Morgan Foundation, and Jasmine Social Investments.

ENDS

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