25 Oct 2023

Rotorua teen turns AI against pest wallabies

9:06 am on 25 October 2023
Cameron Moore, inventor of the wallaby pest trap using artificial intelligence.

Cameron Moore, inventor of the wallaby pest trap using artificial intelligence. Photo: Supplied

A teenager from Rotorua has designed a pest trap that uses artificial intelligence to tackle the increasing threat of wallaby pests in Aotearoa's native forests.

Fourteen-year-old Cameron Moore who is a keen mountain biker was concerned about the growing wallaby population in the Whakarewarewa Forest.

"I made a wallaby trap that kills wallabies in a humane way, and not any other wildlife or children," he told First Up.

"The idea came when I was biking in the forest and I saw a wallaby eating some of the small shoots. I did some research and realised that this stops those small shoots from growing into larger trees in the future. I wanted to stop these wallabies so we could have a nicer forest with more biodiversity."

Moore said the invasive species was all through the Whakarewarewa Forest now, and rapidly multiplying.

He said the high-tech trap took about three to four months to build. It was a box about the size of a wallaby's head.

"On the entrance of that box there's pretty much a door… There's artificial intelligence - right now a big computer, I hope to move to a smaller computer in the future.

"Artificial intelligence in a computer that has a camera and it tells a motor on the door when to open, so the wallaby can stick its head in.

"After I did some research, eucalyptus oil and wheat germ oil seem to lure them in.

"I spent a lot of time with the programming side of it, just lots and lots of error messages, and I'm fairly new to programming, so it was a big, big learning curve for me.

"The success was I ended up entering it in a competition and turns out the judges were very impressed because I ended up winning, which was really cool."

Moore won the Solve for Tomorrow Award, which included a $12,000 cash prize. Some has been spent on a tablet.

"I would just like to say a big thanks to Goodnature for giving me one of their A12 traps. It allowed me to have something to start with in terms of the killing mechanism.

"It was just really helpful and very kind of them to provide me with that."

Moore said he had always wanted to be an engineer, and doing something for nature was a vocation he would like to pursue.

The Ministry of Primary Industries said wallabies were destroying New Zealand's native biodiversity and productive lands. It urged people to report sightings or signs of wallabies anywhere in the country.

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