Resetting the rules for pest control

The science of pest control includes developing and testing new tools. Today we deployed self-resetting traps on Goat Island to test their efficiency at keeping rats from perpetually reinvading the island. Goat Island (Motu Hawere) lies in the Cape Rodney-Okakari Point Marine Reserve (the first no-take marine reserve in the world) and is a great field site located by the University of Auckland Leigh marine laboratory where we can learn about rodent invasion. Previously, we found rats were continually reinvading the island every year as part of a wider meta-population. Today we set out to test whether the Goodnature A24 self-resetting traps could be an additional tool in preventing rat invasion of the island.

Goat Island in the Cape Rodney-Okakari Point Marine Reserve (Photo by Giorgio Muscetta)

Goodnature had recently demonstrated a successful rat eradication program in a similar high reinvasion island off Stewart Island, and I was keen to see if these devices would work on Goat Island. We wanted the devices up and running before the petrels return to breed over winter. With the ten hectare island we deployed ten A24 traps (one per hectare), along with eight DOC200 traps, to eradicate the total population of about 40 rats

Araceli deploys a Goodnature A24 trap
Araceli Samaniego-Herrera from GECI deploys a Goodnature A24 self-resetting trap on Goat Island (Photo by James Russell)

Development of new pest control technologies will be pivotal in working towards achieving larger goals in the restoration of island ecosystems. The current toolbox is limited to a few “tried and tested” tools which have worked very well over the past decades, such as single use snap-traps and aerial distribution of brodifacoum. Over the next 6 months PhD student Markus Gronwald will monitor the self-resetting traps to investigate how rats behave around them, as part of his larger PhD project investigating the behaviour of low density invasive rats around devices, in an effort to help remove the final individuals in pest control projects.

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Meet the Author
Conservation biologist Dr. James Russell works throughout the world on remote islands and other sites to provide conservation solutions by applying a combination of scientific methods. Follow James on National Geographic voices for regular updates on his own work or other exciting developments in island conservation.