31 Oct 2013

New pest fighting approach offers hope for native species, agriculture

9:00 am on 31 October 2013

Scientists say a new approach to fighting pests could free New Zealand of those that kill endangered species, and at the same time provide a boon for agriculture.

The group of scientists from the University of Otago, the University of Western Australia, the Ministry for Primary Industries and Landcare Research is working on what they call the 'Trojan female technique', which gradually depletes a species of its fertile males.

The technique leaves the female animal or insect carrying mutated DNA that causes all her male offspring to be born infertile.

If it works, pests including the possum, the stoat and the rat could be doomed.

Neil Gemmell from Otago University says the technique could provide population control within relatively few generations.

He says with no bait, poison or traps involved, the technique also eliminates animal suffering.

West Coast environmentalist Paul Murray, who has been campaigning against the use of 1080 poison, says the new approach could put an end to the use of 1080 aerial drops to control the possum population.

Forest and Bird advocacy manager Kevin Hackwell says the technique could stop some endangered species from becoming extinct.