New Zealand start-up Goodnature has come up with a humane pest killer that you can monitor by smart phone.
The Government wants to get rid of these introduced mammals by 2050, so that our native species can once again thrive. Doing so is a huge and expensive task that will require new technology and probably a genetic solution to make pest populations permanently infertile.
In the meantime, 1080 pellets are dropped en masse by licensed pest-control operators and we set traps to try to hold back the tide. Here, we need to get smarter, too. Goodnature is a Kiwi start-up that’s attempted to bring the convenience of consumer electronics to traps, with its Chirp system for use with its A24 rat and stoat killer.
The main advantage of the A24 is that it doesn’t need to be reset after a kill. A gas canister lets the trap be sprung 24 times, with the dead animal’s body tumbling out the bottom of the trap where it is eaten or carried away by scavengers. The “Chirp” part of the trap is a Bluetooth module that connects to your phone to update you on the trap’s status.
That is how one night in early September, I received a smartphone alert telling me I had my first kill.
I live in a central Wellington apartment, so I’d given my trap to Neville, the 86-year-old “rat-catcher of Wilton”.
For years, Neville has been diligently setting and clearing the traps around the Wilton Bowling Club, recording his kill count of rats and mice on a coffee-stained piece of paper. I set up the trap in the large area of native bush behind his house, a few hundred metres from Otari-Wilton’s Bush reserve.
The plastic trap is easy to set up. You mount it on a tree near ground level, then insert a gas canister and lure pump, which exudes a non-toxic chocolate substance to attract the pests.
The lure sits at the top of a black tube with a fine plastic trigger intersecting it. The rat or stoat wriggles up the tube and bumps the trigger, activating a piston that flies out and delivers a fatal blow to the head area. This is humane trapping: no writhing death from poison, no lingering demise in the clutches of a trap.
When I finally ventured into Neville’s jungle-like backyard a couple of days later, there was no rat body to be seen, which suited me fine. The app shows me a heat map of other kills by Goodnature trap owners in the Wellington area and I can share my progress with other trappers. It will also let me know when the lure and gas canister need replacing ($40 for a replenishment pack).
No other rats met their end in the A24 Chirp during September. Neville isn’t called the rat-catcher of Wilton for nothing. But other users are racking up impressive kill rates. Reviewing the A24 Chirp on Trustpilot, Richard Lee recounted having killed 24 rats and 21 possums in the past two months after deploying eight A24s on his farm and a further five A12s – designed for possums.
The traps really are set-and-forget devices. My only bugbear is the limited range of the Bluetooth connection. If you’ve put the trap in a far-flung part of your property, you’ll have to walk within range to check its status. The trap can be left to its own devices for up to six months, so that’s not really a problem. Wanting to constantly check the app to see if you’ve killed something will be.
This article was first published in the November 9, 2019 issue of the New Zealand Listener.