Video | Business Headlines | Internet | Science | Scientific Ethics | Technology | Search

 


'Natural Born Killers' Bred In NZ For First Time

13 December

'Natural Born Killers' Bred In New Zealand For The First Time

New Zealand's most ferocious predators, the stoat, has been bred in captivity for the first time in the Southern Hemisphere. Scientists say this will help them find ways to stop stoats breeding as prolifically in the wild.

Stoats (Mustela erminea) are native to Europe, America and Asia. Along with other mustelids, they were brought to New Zealand in the late 1800s to control rabbits, despite the protests of bird experts. Now stoats are known to kill up to 60% of all North Island kiwi chicks and wreak havoc on other native bird populations, killing far more than they need to survive. Stoats are secretive and elusive, and are difficult to catch and study.

The Department of Conservation funds Landcare Research to investigate ways to restrict stoat breeding. Scientists must actually breed stoats to find out more about stoat life cycles, and have healthier animals to study. Now, for the first time, two baby stoats or 'kits' have been born at Landcare Research's animal facility at Lincoln in Canterbury.

DOC Stoat Control Research programme manager Dr Elaine Murphy says stoats have rarely been born in captivity. "It is a real breakthrough to have bred them in New Zealand. Pregnant female stoats have been brought into captivity a number of times, but have never given birth.

"We eventually want to breed our two kits on, to get the larger litters of eight or nine that stoats generally produce in the wild".

Landcare Research Pest Control and Wildlife Toxicology team leader Dr Cheryl O'Connor, the kits' official 'auntie', says the youngsters are now about seven weeks old, but were only discovered a fortnight ago. "We left the mother alone for as long as possible, to minimise stress. Finally we discovered the kits hiding in their nest. They are still cute, fluffy and weak like kittens, but when they reach their full weight of about 250 grams they will hiss and bite with the best of them.

"We think the most important thing we did right in breeding the stoats was to disturb them as little as possible. If the family is upset, the mother can eat her offspring, or abandon the nest, leaving them to freeze".

Dr O'Connor says what is known about stoat reproduction so far is strange and fascinating. "After mating in November or December, female stoats store embryos for about nine months. Seasonal changes in hours of light and darkness trigger the embryos to implant in the uterus and start growing, and the infants are born about a month later.

"We want to see if we can disrupt light and dark patterns to speed that process up, to produce more animals more quickly".

Dr Murphy says once the captive stoat population is built up, research into restricting birth numbers can begin in earnest.

"We will try to devise fertility control methods, to make the stoats' own immune system react against its eggs. We will also look at treatments that may stop embryos implanting".

Dr O'Connor says many people do not realise what a menace stoats are in the wild. "Stoats are quick and clever and most people have never seen one. But like possums, stoats are having a huge impact on our natural heritage. In critical areas, just one stoat in the wrong place can do a lot of damage".

ENDS


© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines

 

Watch This Space: Mahia Rocket Lab Launch Site Officially Opened

Economic Development Minster Steven Joyce today opened New Zealand’s first orbital launch site, Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1, on the Mahia Peninsula on the North Island’s east coast. More>>

Earlier:

Marketing Rocks!
Ig Nobel Award Winners Assess The Personality Of Rocks

A Massey University marketing lecturer has received the 2016 Ig Nobel Prize for economics for a research project that asked university students to describe the “brand personalities” of three rocks. More>>

ALSO:

Nurofen Promotion: Reckitt Benckiser To Plead Guilty To Misleading Ads

Reckitt Benckiser (New Zealand) intends to plead guilty to charges of misleading consumers over the way it promoted a range of Nurofen products, the Commerce Commission says. More>>

ALSO:

Half A Billion Accounts, Including Xtra: Yahoo Confirms Huge Data Breach

The account information may have included names, email addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth, hashed passwords (the vast majority with bcrypt) and, in some cases, encrypted or unencrypted security questions and answers. More>>

ALSO:

Rural Branches: Westpac To Close 19 Branches, ANZ Looks At 7

Westpac confirms it will close nineteen branches across the country; ANZ closes its Ngaruawahia branch and is consulting on plans to close six more branches; The bank workers union says many of its members are nervous about their futures and asking ... More>>

Interest Rates: RBNZ's Wheeler Keeps OCR At 2%

Reserve Bank governor Graeme Wheeler kept the official cash rate at 2 percent and said more easing will be needed to get inflation back within the target band. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sci-Tech
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news