Q: How do I find out about backyard trapping and finding a community group?
The Predator Free New Zealand Trust supports volunteers, community and farmer groups. Check out their guide to getting started here.
The Department of Conservation’s Predator Free 2050 Toolbox publishes guidance for community groups, including beginner tips, trap and bait profiles, how-tos and funding resources. See here.
Q: Where did the idea of a Predator Free New Zealand originate?
Our cultural and national identities are drawn from the unique plants and animals found here.
Māori have highlighted the significance of these taonga and the importance of acting as kaitiaki for them in reports and forums over many years.
The idea of a predator free New Zealand and setting a national goal for achieving it by 2050 has been incubating for a long time.
Over a century ago conservation pioneers were taking kākāpō and kiwi to offshore islands to save them from the ravages of stoats and rats.
Leaders like Sir Paul Callaghan, Sir Rob Fenwick and Gareth Morgan have helped build today’s predator free movement of dedicated community and individual trappers, conservation advocates, council workers, scientists, funders and inventors.
In 2016 the New Zealand Government announced a national goal to make New Zealand predator free by 2050.
Q: Why is our native wildlife so vunerable?
New Zealand’s plants and animals evolved in isolation from other land masses, humans and mammalian predators for millions of years. Many are found nowhere else in the world.
Many of our native birds are long-lived, have slow breeding rates, small clutch sizes and large body sizes and eggs. Several species are nocturnal.
Flightlessness evolved in the absence of ground dwelling predators.
Birds like kiwi, kakapo, kōkako, kākā, kererū, toutouwai, tīeke and species of native bats, reptiles, snails and insects cannot co-exist with the introduced possums, stoats and rats that have invaded our landscapes over the past few centuries.
See why in this video.
Only on predator-free islands, in fenced sanctuaries and within areas under regular predator control can many of our wildlife species survive and thrive.
Q: How serious is the threat to our native birds and wildlife?
Recent reports from the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment and the Department of Conservation show that we face a biodiversity crisis with introduced predators one of the main causes of decline.
• 4000 of our native species are classified as in some trouble
• 1000 are classified as in serious trouble and/or facing risk of extinction
• More than 50 bird species have become extinct in the 750 years since human arrival
• Four out of every five birds are in trouble – and some sit on the brink of extinction.
Q: Is the Predator Free 2050 goal attainable?
The predator free movement builds on the collective efforts of communities, iwi, private businesses, philanthropists, scientists and government.
Successful predator eradication operations have been carried out on more than 100 offshore islands around New Zealand and inside more than a dozen fenced sanctuaries, enabling native wildlife to flourish.
Now Predator Free 2050 Limited is looking to help achieve these outcomes of areas of mainland New Zealand.
We are focussed on the job of helping build a portfolio of successful large landscape projects, a suite of proven enabling technologies and a funding pipeline to keep them growing.
A recent paper suggests current techniques will probably be inadequate to effect nationwide eradications and that new tools will be required.
Our research strategy and coordination of an inter-agency science collaboration process aims to address this gap.
We are also well connected with international developments in the emerging field of gene technology, with our Science Strategy Manager currently sitting on the IUCN’s Task Force on Synthetic Biology and Biodiversity Conservation.
The Task Force recently published Genetic frontiers for conservation – An assessment of synthetic biology and biodiversity conservation.
The alternative to predator freedom is to accept that much of our unique wildlife will be forever confined to offshore islands and small fenced sanctuaries.
Q: Can my community group apply for funding from Predator Free 2050 Limited?
Predator Free 2050 Limited looks to fund large scale predator control projects, usually over several thousands of hectares and with potential to be scaled up further.
These are sought through expressions of interest and request for proposal processes and currently fourteen criteria are used to assess them.
Projects to date are being delivered by specially formed charitable trusts or companies with five-year operational budgets of between around $3m and $50m.
Predator Free 2050 Limited requires co-funding of at least 2 to 1 so having strong council, philanthropic and landowner support for projects is essential.
There are various funding sources for community groups and landowners listed here.
The DOC Community Fund made available a one-off $1 million for established community conservation hubs in 2020. This funding was for established hubs to build the capability and capacity of community conservation groups.
Successful projects often build on the efforts of community groups, DOC, OSPRI, councils and landowners over many years.
For example, the Predator Free Dunedin project was catalysed through a memorandum of understanding between 20 conservation related agencies and groups, enabling them to work together on a Predator Free 2050 plan.
Waiheke’s proposal was developed by the Waiheke Collective, helping ensure broad community connections and support for their plan.
Q: What do you expect to achieve by 2025?
Predator Free 2050 Limited is working to help meet the interim goals government has set for 2025:
• Increase by 1 million hectares the area of mainland New Zealand where predators are suppressed.
• Demonstrate that predator eradication can be achieved in areas of mainland New Zealand of at least 20,000 hectares without the use of fences.
• Achieve eradication of all mammalian predators from New Zealand’s island nature reserves.
• Develop a breakthrough science solution capable of eradicating at least one small mammal predator from the New Zealand mainland.
Q: Do your projects use 1080?
Most of the projects we are funding are on urban and farmed landscapes and rely on intensive trapping and associated remote monitoring and surveillance technologies.
The use of aerial 1080 has proven to be an important tool for the control of predators in remote forested areas. Information about its use can be found on the Department of Conservation website.
The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s reports on the use of 1080 are available here.
In some areas, projects plan to coordinate our investment with scheduled 1080 operations.
In Taranaki, traps, bait stations, detection dogs and thermal imaging are being used on farmland surrounding Egmont National Park to coincide with application of aerial 1080 within it.
The aim is to completely remove possums from an initial 4,500 ha area from Kaitake Ranges down to the coast around Oākura township.
Similarly, in Westland’s 7,500 ha Perth Valley we’re funding research to see how natural alpine and river barriers can be used to keep possums, stoats and rats at zero after aerial 1080 operations.
If proven, the method could mean lasting freedom from predators and eliminate the need for repeated toxin use.
Q: Will you be using gene drives?
A recent paper in the Journal of Ornithology suggests that “current techniques will probably be inadequate to effect nationwide eradications, and new tools (possibly based on genetic technologies) will probably be required.”
We are making sure we stay well connected with international developments in the gene technology field.
Our Science Strategy Manager Prof Dan Tompkins Manager sits on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Task Force on Synthetic Biology and Biodiversity Conservation and also coordinates an inter-agency PF2050 science collaboration process.
At the moment the use gene drives to eradicate predator populations is theoretical. If it did prove to be viable then New Zealand would need to have a national conversation about gene editing for predator control and, if considered safe and desirable, introduce new regulations and approval processes to enable its use.
The Royal Society has published a discussion document on the use of gene editing for pest control.
Q: Are you targeting cats?
Cats are not one of the target species for Predator Free 2050 Limited.
However, feral cats are a serious predator and pose risks to native wildlife. Information about feral cats can be found on the Department of Conservation website.
Some projects we support are targeting wild cats within their programme of work.
Guides for responsible pet ownership are published by Forest and Bird and by councils.