‘Shining a Light on Innovation’ is this year’s theme for the New Zealand Biosecurity Institute’s annual awareness week.
Pest animal detection is one aspect of biosecurity that has seen innovation in recent years. After all, it’s important to know what species are present, where they are and how numerous they are to understand the extent of threat and the success (or not) of pest control.
Our Pest Detective website is one such innovation. It filled a former gap in information and was designed as a search and information tool to help people recognise, through observation, the typical signs pest animals leave in the field and understand each species' typical behaviour.
Field observation is a good starting point but field sign alone does not provide consistent enough information to accurately measure and monitor the distribution and density of pest animal populations. Monitoring was traditionally done through trapping statistics but some new techniques were developed to more easily and cheaply small pest animal populations such as possums, rodents, cats, hedgehogs and mustelids. These are some now well-known examples.
- Tracking tunnels: lure the animal into a portable tunnel where the animal walks over sticky ink and then leaves tell-tale footprints on specially designed tracking cards.
- Chew cards: nailed within reach of small animals, these lure animals to investigate the smell of a paste inside the card (often peanut butter). The animals bite the edge of the card, leaving identifiable tooth marks.
- Lures: innovative research to attract animals to tunnels, chew cards and pest control devices has included testing different kinds of visual, smell and even audio attractants, based on understanding animal behaviour.
The institute’s president, Darion Embling, says that innovation is vital if New Zealand is to get on top of the threat that invasive animal pests and weeds pose to New Zealand’s economy and natural heritage. Read more about Biosecurity Week.