The Big Challenge
Three introduced predators – rats, possums and stoats – are generally accepted as the main agents of ecological decline in New Zealand. Aside from the estimated 25 million native birds they kill each year, they cost this country billions of dollars annually, and they impact on the country’s primary production base through the transmission of diseases such as bovine tuberculosis.
New Zealand is a world leader in removing invasive predators from islands and predator fenced areas. However the need for a defendable barrier e.g. the sea or the social and geographic challenges of predator fencing, limit the scale at which they can be used. Therefore on the mainland, the current predator management approach is ongoing suppression of predator populations using traps or toxins. This carries a significant long-term cost as reinvasion must be continually managed.
Remove and Protect
Zero Invasive Predators Ltd (ZIP) was established to develop operationally ready, innovative, strongly supported technologies to completely remove rats, possums and stoats from large mainland areas, and then defend those areas from reinvasion. We call this model Remove and Protect.
The Remove and Protect approach, if successful, will make it possible to:
- carry out predator control in terrain where it is neither desirable nor possible to construct predator fences
- reduce our dependence on the repeated wide scale application of toxins at chosen sites
- enable progressive expansion of a protected area as funds and confidence allow
- create an environment on the mainland where, in time, ecological integrity could rival that of predator-free offshore islands
In September 2014, a field development site was established at Bottle Rock Peninsula, in Queen Charlotte Sound. Here, we are assessing the effectiveness of the current predator control toolset in a ‘virtual barrier’ system, and testing new prototype technologies as they develop.
The ‘Remove and Protect’ approach is likely to be best suited to land areas bounded by geographic 'barriers' such as oceans, large rivers and alpine tops, making them relatively easy to defend once predators have been removed.