Predator Free New Zealand by 2050 is an exciting and ambitious goal. And we are up for the challenge! A wide range of tools and techniques are expected to be needed to completely remove possums, rats and stoats, and permanently prevent them from re-establishing across the country.
As well as novel tools, it will likely require novel thinking. Could protecting predator-free areas against re-invasion be achieved by simply repelling the predators, rather than killing them? Are there ways we can change the behaviours of these predators through appealing to their senses? To advance this thinking and see what is already known in the scientific world, ZIP contracted Dr. B. Kay Clapperton to prepare a report that summarised the recent literature on the responses of possums, rodents and carnivores to chemical repellents.
Kay found that a range of chemicals have the potential to be effective predator repellents; including some that induce innate fear and/or anxiety responses, irritation, neophobia (fear of anything new) or malaise. Chemicals can also be used to condition learned food aversion or place avoidance. Her report also includes a brief overview of sound, visual, and mechanical repellents, while emphasising the likely need to combine them in multi-sensory systems to maximise efficacy.
Where possible, Kay focused on research that demonstrated the effectiveness of repellents under field conditions, and behavioural responses to repellents that could have direct predator management implications.
The review report is available here.
Funding for this project was provided to ZIP by six New Zealand dairy companies – Fonterra, Open Country, Synlait, Westland Milk Products, Miraka, and Tatua – as part of a suite of projects in which they invested during 2015-2017.