Hi-tech solutions to invasive mammal pests

  • Possum in briar. Image - Andrea Byrom

    Possum in briar. Image - Andrea Byrom

  • Stoat. Image - Andrea Byrom

    Stoat. Image - Andrea Byrom

  • Radio-collared rat. Image - Andrea Byrom

    Radio-collared rat. Image - Andrea Byrom

Project 2.3

Leader: Dr James Russell, University of Auckland

Mission Statement

By providing end-users with the tools (and deployment strategies) needed to eliminate small mammal pests across natural and production system through a national partnership that ensures all hurdles to application are recognised and addressed.


The ability to cost-effectively keep rats, stoats and possums at zero density will be transformational for New Zealand conservation.

The ultimate outcome is to enable scaling-up of current efforts to landscape-scale pest freedom. This project will accelerate the provision of improved tools, methodologies and strategies for mammal pest control in general and for local elimination in particular. They will be socially acceptable, cost-effective and targeted next-generation technologies that have been proven at pilot scale to effectively eliminate small mammal pests.

A step change in research innovation will be achieved by identifying and making the advances necessary to achieve end-users’ and stakeholders’ desired outcomes from within the fields of ‘lures/repellents’, ‘surveillance/detection/monitoring’, ‘improved toxins and devices’, ‘genetic-based tools’ and ‘landscape-scale strategy (the top five themes identified for progress in the 2012 Pest Summit).

Widespread suppression and eradication of small mammal pests (possums, rodents, mustelids):

  1. Novel tools and technologies for cost-effective, landscape-scale control, eradication and surveillance of small mammal pests (e.g. strategy and tools for remote wireless trapping/surveillance systems),
  2. Designer lures to increase knockdown efficiency,
  3. Tailoring specific lethal control agents (and advanced delivery systems) for priority small mammal /invertebrate pests and pathogens (e.g. via genome mining or molecular approaches for designer toxin receptor targets).
  1. What are the current, emerging and on-the-horizon technologies nationally and internationally?
  2. What are the end-user needs and pathways for novel technologies?
  3. What are the new ‘product specifications’ needed to achieve stakeholder and end-user goals?
  4. Are there social hurdles and how can they be overcome?
  5. Can we identify synergies between current and developing technologies?

This project will be led by Dr James Russell, supported by a new collaborative research leadership team including a wide range of skills, including design, engineering, social science and VM, in addition to the conventionally applied disciplines of wildlife management and pest control.

Garvey, P.M., Glen, A.S., Clout, M.N., Wyse, S.V., Nichols, M., Pech, R.P., 2017. Exploiting interspecific olfactory communication to monitor predators. Ecological Applications 27, 389-402 DOI: 10.1002/eap.1483

Gemmell, Neil J., and Daniel M. Tompkins. "Gene drives and rodent control: response to Piaggio et al." Trends in Ecology & Evolution 32.5 (2017): 314-315.

Glen A.S., Latham M.C., Anderson D, Leckie C., Niemiec R., Pech R.P., & Byrom A. (2017) Landholder participation in regional-scale control of invasive predators: An adaptable landscape model. Biological Invasions 19: 329-338. DOI 10.1007/s10530-016-1282-3

Kopf RK, A King, J Cucherousset, J Olden, P Humphries, PB Moyle, L Baumgartner, AE Byrom, H McGuinness, N Bond, M Bode, D Nimmo & R Keller. 2017. Confronting the risks of large-scale invasive species control. Nature Ecology & Evolution 1: 0172. DOI: 10.1038/s41559-017-0172.

Latham ADM, B Warburton, AE Byrom & RP Pech. In press. The ecology and management of mammal invasions in forests. Biological Invasions  DOI: 10.1007/s10530-017-1421-5

Parkes JP, AE Byrom, & K-A Edge. 2017. Eradicating mammals on New Zealand island reserves: what is left to do? New Zealand Journal of Ecology 42: 263—270. DOI: 10.20417/nzjecol.41.25

Parkes, JP, G Nugent, DM Forsyth, AE Byrom, RP Pech, B Warburton and D Choquenot. 2016. Past, present, and two potential futures for managing New Zealand’s mammalial pests. New Zealand Journal of Ecology 41: 151-161. DOI:10.20417/nzjecol.41.1

Rouco C, R De-Torres-Ceijas, DM Collado, & AE Byrom. 2017.  New Zealand shouldn’t ignore feral cats. BioScience DOI:10.1093/biosci/bix068

Russell, James C., and Tim M. Blackburn. "Invasive Alien Species: Denialism, Disagreement, Definitions, and Dialogue." Trends in Ecology & Evolution 32.5 (2017): 312-314. DOI:10.1016/j.tree.2017.02.005

Predator Free 2050

Predator Free 2050 is an ambitious goal to rid New Zealand of the most damaging introduced predators that threaten our nation’s natural taonga, our economy and primary sector.

Vertebrate pests

Research focusing on protecting native ecosystems and primary industry through improved understanding of pest responses to management, and the role of pests as disease carriers (bovine tuberculosis and avian malaria). This understanding is then used to provide new and improved management strategies, tools and techniques - ranging from biological control to traps and toxins.


Bioethics Panel

Moving any new control measures from the lab to the landscape will be as much of a social…

I smell you: a super-lure for stoats

The development of new super lures, where attraction is provoked by hard-wired competitive and predator-assessment behaviour, could provide…

Tailoring specific lethal control agents

Using genome mining for species-specific toxicants we will transform possum control in NZ, enabling large-scale use of toxins…

A conservation summit on Predator Free NZ 2050

From Our Changing World, 9:20 pm on 4 August 2016

The New Zealand Government has thrown its support behind a radical idea: saving our native biodiversity by declaring war on predators. So are we looking at a future where hihi and tuatara can safely roam the mainland forest once more? Andrea Byrom, from Manaaki Whenua, is Director of the Biological   Heritage National Science Challenge. James Russell is a biologist from the University of Auckland. Peter McClelland is an eradication expert, who led the rat eradication on subantarctic Campbell Island. They talk about the importance of ‘social license’ and getting community support, and share their thoughts on what will be needed to make New Zealand predator-free.

What's new

James Russell traps mice on Antipodes Island.
Protecting biodiversity earns award

5 July 2018 - Whats new

Congratulations to BioHeritage Project Leader James Russell who has received a Society for Conservation Biology​ Oceania section distinguished…

Possum, rat,and stoat.
Editing Our Genes: Pest Control

26 October 2017 - Whats new

Kim Hill is joined by bioethicist Josephine Johnston, Dr Andrea Byrom, Kevin Hackwell, and Jan Hania as they…

Possum, rat,and stoat.
Ethics Panel

22 September 2017 - Whats new

How do we address the ethical questions raised by the new technologies being explored to achieve the aim…

Stoat NZ Herald
Q&A: Predator-free NZ's tricky ethical issues

19 September 2017 - Whats new

We know that New Zealand's new target of wiping out pest predators by 2050 will demand more money,…

The brush-tailed possum may be cute, but the invader is posing a serious threat to New Zealand’s native species. Image - Tobias Bernhard Raff/Minden Pictures
New Zealand aims to eradicate invasive predators, but winning public support may be big challenge

10 July 2017 - Whats new

April Reese, July 10 2017. Experts say achieving PFNZ will require new technologies—such as deadlier toxins and possibly…

Great Mercury Island. Image - James Russell
The battle for our islands

11 January 2017 - Whats new

Science reporter Jamie Morton talks to Auckland University conservation ecologist Dr James Russell about the ongoing battle to…

Maggie Barry. Image - New Zealand Parliament
Predator Free 2050 Ltd board appointed

1 December 2016 - Whats new

Great to see Predator Free 2050 board announced! Looking forward to providing research strategy to make it happen.…

Rat at bird nest. Image © Nga Manu
Predator Free NZ - ambitious and under-funded

29 July 2016 - Whats new

Alison Ballance, Our Changing World, Thursday 28 July 2016. The Government’s has announced ambitous plans to make New…

Farmland, part of the area included in the Cape to City project. Image - Richard Brimmer
New Money a Game-Changer for New Zealand’s Biodiversity

25 July 2016 - Whats new

“The significant new investment in pest eradication, announced at Zealandia in Wellington today by Prime Minister John Key,…