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Game's almost up for kiwi-killing stoats

Friday 4 Jan 2013 3:50 p.m.

A trap that's set to revolutionise pest control in the wild has just received a funding boost.

The Spitfire is being developed by Lincoln University scientists and an Auckland pest control company, who say the device could save the lives of thousands of kiwi chicks each year.

Ninety-five percent of kiwi chicks in the wild never make it to adulthood. It's estimated that 50 percent of them are killed by predators like stoats and rats.

"With that amount of attrition from their population, we will see extinctions if there isn't intensive management by the Department of Conservation and others," says Dr Des Smith of Lincoln University.

So university researchers and a pest control company have designed an ingenious trap they hope will help greatly reduce stoat numbers.

Called the Spitfire, it features a short tunnel and a toxin that's lethal to stoats.

"The stoat will come in, walk through the tunnel and a trigger will be set off, and it will have a bout 800 milligrams of toxin spilled on its stomach," says Dr Smith.

"It will then go away and groom that and receive a lethal dose."

While trying to control stoat numbers with traps isn't new, the current models are labour intensive and some in the wild aren't reset for weeks or months.

"The biggest issue with trapping evasive animals in New Zealand is that most traps are just one-off traps, where as this trap will do over 100 animals at a time," says Duncan MacMorran of Connovation Ltd.

Because of a substantial donation, Dr Smith says they can start field testing the Spitfire in the next few months.

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