Centre for Wildlife Management and Conservation to take pest management and conservation to next level
The Centre for Wildlife Management and Conservation was opened today to deliver innovative management of introduced pests and enhance conservation efforts both within and outside of New Zealand. The centre will focus research efforts on delivering a suite of ‘next generation tools’. These are to protect native animals and plants from mammalian pests, improve ways to conserve threatened species, and better equip people to deliver and use the tools and techniques available.
“We can increase recovery of native biodiversity in New Zealand by developing new, effective and humane tools and techniques. We need ground-breaking, targeted tools as New Zealand’s pest problems are complex. By drawing on our collective expertise, we can help reverse the decline of our iconic native species such as kiwi, and reduce the economic, environmental and cultural impacts of invasive pests,” says Professor Charles Eason, Director of the Centre for Wildlife Management and Conservation.
The centre will see Lincoln University scientists collaborate alongside research and commercialisation partners, Connovation Ltd, Auckland University of Technology, University of Otago, The University of Auckland, Plant and Food Research, the Department of Conservation and Lincoln Ventures Ltd. Other stakeholders include rural communities, Māori, and pest control practitioners.
A key research theme at the centre is around pest control and toxins. Research will look at ‘low residue’ and more humane toxin advancement, pest control without toxins, advanced animal monitoring systems, linking communities for improved pest control, and delivery of local eradication and low population densities of multiple pests programmes.
“The centre is a great example of applied scientific research providing new practical solutions,” says Dr Peter John, Director of Research & Commercialisation at Lincoln University. “By linking professors through to postgraduate students and technicians in fields as diverse as animal ecology, wildlife management, pharmacology, toxicology and design engineering, we are creating new science thinking and innovations that will make a real difference to our country.”
Several new technologies aimed at suppressing introduced predators such as possums, rats and stoats were profiled at the opening. The new toxin PAPP (para-aminopropiophenone), the first toxin to be registered for animal pest control for 30 years and the only one with welfare as a primary consideration was launched at the event as was PredaSTOP, for stoat control.
PAPP was developed collaboratively, the research through to commercialisation process was overseen by Professor Charles Eason from Lincoln University, Dr Elaine Murphy from the Department of Conservation and Duncan MacMorran of Connovation Ltd to further extend the boundaries of toxin control. The PAPP toxin was approved by the Environmental Protection Agency in March 2011 and registered by the New Zealand Food Standards Authority in April 2011.
Other control and monitoring tools in the pipeline include sodium nitrite for possum control and resetting multi-kill delivery systems that have the potential to be more species-specific, long-lasting and cost-effective than traditional baits and extend the range of cost-effective ground control.
“Effective and sustained control of animal pests is essential. For the development of new devices to work we need a solid understanding of the targets. All species of pests have different characteristics, use different habitats, have different food preferences and behave in different ways,” says Dr Helen Blackie, Associate Director of the Centre for Wildlife Management and Conservation.
Armed with solid research Dr Blackie and design teams are turning the behaviours of pests against themselves with a resettable toxin delivery system for stoats. Stoats move through tunnels and are sprayed with PAPP, the devices then reset for the next stoat. Tunnels can be left out for 12 months or more without servicing, potentially killing hundreds of stoats. Other self-setting traps under development include versions for rats and possums.
Research on species recognition technology, which enables a kiwi to be distinguished from a possum for example, will allow even more targeted delivery of toxins for pests. The technology can also be used to monitor threatened species.
The Centre for Wildlife Management and Conservation has research contracts with a range of entities, such as the Ministry of Science and Innovation, the Department of Conservation and the Animal Health Board and support from Regional Councils.
“Through teaching and research we will inspire a new generation of motivated students to make a difference and take conservation to the next level in New Zealand,” says Professor Eason.
Hon Dr Nick Smith, Minister for the Environment, was guest of honour at the launch at Lincoln University, attended by collaborators, scientists, industry and commercialisation partners, regional council representatives and key agencies involved in conservation and wildlife management.