'Spitfire' to aim poison at stoats

Updated at 5:01 pm on 11 December 2012

Lincoln University wildlife scientists will shortly start field trials on a new predator control system to reduce the slaughter of kiwi chicks by stoats.

Each year, 95% of kiwi chicks die in the wild, half of them killed by stoats. Last year stoats killed an estimated 10,000 kiwi chicks.

Scientists at Lincoln's Centre for Wildlife Management and Conservation are working on a new device called the Spitfire.

Dr Des Smith will lead the field trial of the device, which he said had been designed for use with existing predator control systems.

He said it involves the use of a toxin developed for use against stoats and feral cats and will fit with trapping boxes being used by DoC and community groups.

The stoat will run through a tunnel on top of the Spitfire device and a dose of the toxin will be fired onto its belly. When it grooms, it will ingest a lethal dose.

Dr Smith said the advantage of the Spitfire system is that it can deliver up to 100 doses.

Field trials will start in the the Blue Mountains area in West Otago from March next year, with the help of a donation from the Gary Chisholm Family Trust.

Dr Smith said there are no kiwi in the Blue Mountains, but the area is known to be home to a sizeable stoat population.

Researchers are also looking at versions of the Spitfire that will target other predators such as rats, ferrets and feral cats to protect other species besides kiwi.

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