Borrowing from a Q&A that Project Janszoon published in their recent newsletter, ZIP CEO Al Bramley talks about the progress they are making in Marlborough.

Zero Invasive Predators (ZIP) Ltd has been established as a research and development company to pioneer a new approach to predator management. ZIP’s aim is to completely remove rats, stoats and possums from large areas of the mainland utilising new and existing predator control technologies.

Al Bramley is ZIP’s CEO and we asked him to tell us about ZIP’s development site and how Project Janszoon is helping in the fight against invasive predators.

Where is ZIP’s development site?

Our field laboratory is a 440 hectare site on the Bottle Rock Peninsula in the Marlborough Sounds (pictured above), near the start of the Queen Charlotte track. We are establishing a rat and possum-free zone on the small peninsula and then will try and defend it from reinvasion without using a predator fence.

How does it work?

Initially we need to remove all the invasive predators and to do this we are using fairly standard tools like traps and toxins. Once the predators are removed we will use a defence barrier system to stop reinvasion. It involves a series of six defence lines spaced 100m apart. Each defence line has multiple tools every 10m, which is a lot more intensive than a typical trap line, where traps are usually spaced 100m by 100m for rats.

How close are you to removing all the predators?

We think we are down to the last half dozen possums and 50 odd rats. As we get down to really small rat numbers we will use a new lure developed by the Goodnature team. It smells of rat and works because rats get lonely and should be attracted by the lure. We estimate in two to three months we will have got rid of every rat and possum. Then the hard work begins.

What happens when you get rid of all the predators?

Then we begin to improve the defence barrier system and our detection system in the protected zone. The barrier system is already in place and somewhat surprisingly seems to be working quite well, but this is unchartered territory and we need to understand what’s working and refine it. ZIP has learnt a lot already but as we develop the barrier we expect it to be breached.

What innovative tools are you using?

We have 600 traps that are linked together electronically so there is live reporting into a satellite monitoring system. That means we know when a trap has caught or killed a predator and we can respond quickly. As we are using some live traps that real time monitoring is essential.

How is Project Janszoon helping?

We have already been testing new lures on Project Janszoon’s trap network in the Abel Tasman National Park and at least one lure showed promising results. We work closely with the Project Janszoon team and we may end up testing other new technologies and methodologies in the Park.

Where to from here?

ZIP plans to develop the system at Bottle Rock Peninsula for the next three to five years. With that learning we will then be able to take our work to the next order of magnitude.

Are there other ideas you are looking at? 

We are already looking at things like novel traps or toxins, long-life lures, and automated detection. We also get people coming to us with new proposals and some of those are promising. ZIP intends to work alongside researchers and engineers to develop a complete set of tools to tackle invasive predators.

ZIP is a partnership between the NEXT Foundation (whose funders also support Project Janszoon), DOC, the dairy industry and philanthropists Gareth Morgan and Sam Morgan.