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The Predator Free 2050 Research Strategy

Science and Social License: The Predator Free 2050 Research Strategy


Predator Free 2050 Ltd today revealed the organisation’s four-part science research strategy to help save our natural heritage.

Developed in partnership with leading scientists and predator control experts, the strategy is designed to achieve one of the organisation’s 2025 interim goals; a break-through science solution capable of eradicating a mammalian predator from the New Zealand mainland.

The strategy outlines four concurrent programmes: ‘environment and society’, ‘eradicating the last 1%’, ‘new genetic control tools’ and ‘computer modelling’.

“This is how we intend to drive the science behind Predator Free 2050” says Ed Chignell, CEO of Predator Free 2050 Ltd.

The research strategy has the backing of New Zealand’s Biological Heritage National Science Challenge and has undergone review by independent experts.

Dr Dan Tompkins, Project Manager for the Predator Free 2050 Ltd Science Strategy, says that the focus of the approach is on informing a national conversation.

“The first programme of the research strategy is ‘environment and society’, an exploration of New Zealand’s social and cultural views about predator eradication. It is the foundation for the entire strategy and signals Predator Free 2050’s commitment to transparency and dialogue right from the outset. A science breakthrough without a deep respect for ethics and the social license to operate, is no breakthrough at all.”

Elements of the ‘environment and society’ programme are underway through a bioethics panel and a recently completed social survey – both initiated by the Biological Heritage National Science Challenge.

“The strategy separates technical research into two further programmes, each separate pathways to achieve the Predator Free goal” says Dr Tompkins.

“A programme on ‘eradicating the last 1%’ focusses on upgrading current predator control approaches. While New Zealand is a world leader in mammalian pest control, eradication and keeping areas predator free remains a challenge.”

“Recent advances in fields like wireless remote monitoring and AI offer exciting potential to innovate and build on the success of current approaches. Initially, the ‘eradicating the last 1%’ programme will focus on possums.”

The second technical programme aims to inform New Zealanders as to the benefits and risks of ‘new genetic control tools’, prior to any commitment to develop such tools for Predator Free 2050. Dr Tompkins acknowledges the concerns some New Zealanders and international observers have about this approach and notes that there are many technological hurdles to overcome.

“Predator Free 2050 are not advocating for any specific technology to achieve New Zealand’s eradication goals. The organisation’s role is to advance our understanding of the range of options available for the task and facilitate a national conversation as to which approaches meet our collective social, ethical and practical standards.”

“Informed by international perspectives, New Zealand stakeholders need to collectively decide which technologies should have a place in the Predator Free 2050 vision, and which should not.”

Underpinning the Predator Free 2050 research strategy is the fourth programme, ‘computer modelling’. This involves the development of shared tools that all communities and agencies contributing to Predator Free 2050 can use to design the right approach for their goals and environment.

Dr Andrea Byrom, Director of the Biological Heritage Science Challenge, says the organisation stands behind the Predator Free research strategy.

“The Challenge has always recognised that the Predator-Free vision is bigger than all of us, so we support a collective effort - including a coordinated and joined-up science and research effort - to achieve this goal.”

The release of the research strategy follows Predator Free 2050 Ltd’s recent call for expressions of interest in funding and support for landscape scale predator control projects.

For more information on Predator Free 2050 Ltd and the science research strategy, visit www.pf2050.co.nz.

-Ends-

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