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New Zealand conservation company Goodnature goes international with new anti-predator trap

Conservation technology company Goodnature has created another trap to target some of the world’s most voracious and invasive predator species – and is now taking their mission of saving native species global. 

Goodnature, which Idealog has coveredbefore, has unveiled its A18 pest trap – so-named because it can self-reset 18 times. The trap has been created to target and control small Indian mongoose in Hawaii, American mink in Scandinavia, and eastern grey squirrels in the UK.

Each of Goodnature’s traps has been designed to target specific invasive, non-native species that are harming native wildlife: the A12 for possums and A24 for rats and stoats, and now the A18.

The A18 trap has been developed to suppress larger invasive pests weighing between 500 grammes and 2 kilogrammes. The A18 includes a bigger power unit than the A12 or A24, which in turn generates a more powerful strike to the skull that is supposed to kill pests instantly.

While the A18 is the same design for mongoose and squirrels, there are specific trap modifications for each species. Non-toxic lures which attract each species have also been developed and will be deployed in automatic dispensers for each trap.

“Small Indian mongoose, American mink and grey squirrels are very detrimental to biodiversity in many parts of the world,” says Goodnature co-founder and design director Robbie van Dam. “The methods currently used to suppress these global invasive species are labour-intensive, costly, and are ultimately inefficient. Goodnature is fighting the war against introduced predators in New Zealand, and the release of our A18 trap is another step towards our global ambition of suppressing some of the world’s most invasive species to protect very unique species.”

In November 2017, the Goodnature team and the US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) ran a field-test of the A18 trap targeting small Indian mongoose at Pearl Harbor National Wildlife Refuge on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. The project saw 20 Goodnature A18 mongoose traps deployed over a 20-hectare area at Pearl Harbor, with the aim of demonstrating that the A18 could be an effective way of controlling mongoose.

The results were extremely positive, with mongoose numbers dropping by 60 percent within the first few days of the trial. Ongoing results continued to see the numbers and the capture of re-invading individuals decline. The success of the project provides good evidence for setting up trap networks across larger areas.

Mongooses were introduced to Hawaii in 1883 to control rats at sugarcane plantations, and have been directly implicated in the extinction of six native Hawaiian species since their arrival. Like stoats on steroids, mongoose breed throughout the year, can produce up to 14 offspring – called kits – per litter, and have densities of 10 to 15 animals living in each hectare of land.

Because of Goodnature’s expertise in developing multi-kill traps for other pest species, the USFWS contracted Goodnature to create the A18 mongoose trap, a tool to target small Indian mongoose.

To date, the most common control method for mongoose in Hawaii has been live and kill trapping. This requires intensive labour, as traps must be checked daily to reset traps and dispatch any captured animals.

Humaneness trials will be undertaken in April to confirm if the A18 mongoose trap is humane, non-toxic and kills mongoose instantly. Other Goodnature traps, such as the A24 rat and stoat trap and the A18 grey squirrel trap, have already passed rigorous humaneness testing and meet New Zealand government guidelines, the United Kingdom’s Spring Traps Approval Order, and humane standards in Europe.

On the other side of the world – and quite a bit further north – Goodnature A18 mink traps were sent to Scandinavia this past December as part of a project to target the invasive American mink. American mink, an aquatic mustelid species related to stoats, have had a devastating effect on wildlife in Scandinavia since they were introduced to Europe for the purpose of fur farming in the 1920s. The aim of the project is to decrease the population of American mink, in an effort to protect native species and increase the biodiversity in Scandinavia.

Goodnature’s Scandinavian distributor is training project staff in Norway, Finland and Sweden on how to use and deploy A18 mink traps. These staff will undertake the A18 trap trial on the ground in those countries in the coming months.

Over in the UK, Goodnature’s A18 grey squirrel trap recently passed the UK’s Spring Trap Approval Order – which is the humane testing necessary for a predator trap to be legally used the United Kingdom and Europe. Now, the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is making amendments to the Spring Trap Approval Order to include the A18 grey squirrel trap. The trap is due to become commercially available in June this year.

The UK has an estimated population of 2.5 million grey squirrels – which have had a detrimental effect on the native red squirrel. In short, the grey squirrel is recognised as the main threat to survival of the native red squirrel population because grey squirrels are larger, capable of storing up to four times more fat (a necessity for winter survival), usually give birth to more young, and live at higher densities.

It may be grim work, but Goodnature believes what they’re doing is better for the environment in the long run by protecting native species and helping to preserve ecosystems. As they say: “Our vision is a natural environment in which native species survive, thrive and flourish, free from the threat and destruction of introduced pests. Goodnature is constantly working to develop products that make it easy for everyone to create sanctuaries in their backyard, however big. We are committed to providing pragmatic solutions to one of our most serious environmental problems –biodiversity decline. This is through the design and manufacture of automatic traps that humanely kill pest animals and then reset themselves … We can halt biodiversity decline by eradicating the pests that eat our native species; it’s that simple.”

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