Researchers Prof Greg Anderson and Dr Caroline Decourt have received MBIE funding for developing a new strategy to eradicate pest mammals which put native plants and animals at risk.
This research is motivated by a rapid decline in New Zealand's biodiversity which is heavily driven by introduced mammalian species that have a taste for New Zealand's plants (rabbits, possums, wallabies) or birds and other animals (rats, stoats, ferrets). Current eradication strategies such as trapping and using biodegradable poisons all have disadvantages such as high costs, not being feasible in all locations, or lack of specificity.
Their proposal will develop a single-application bait which will selectively eliminate fertility-controlling cells in mammals by targeting a specific receptor type. These receptors do not exist in non-mammalian species such as birds and would essentially prevent unwanted side effects on native animals. By simply inactivating the reproductive system of pest animals, further spread and population growth can be controlled without the need of killing them or making them suffer if they ingested a sub-lethal dose.
The two researchers of the Centre for Neuroendocrinology are joined by Associate Professor Arlene McDowell (School of Pharmacy) and Dr Regan Anderson from The Ferrier Institute at Victoria University of Wellington. The project is funded for 3 years with a total of $1,000,000 and will be in collaboration with predator control organisations Zero Invasive Predators and Predatorfree 2050.