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How cameras are helping to restore Kaitake

A network of cameras across Kaitake is identifying predator hotspots and showing how control methods are working.   

Since April 2021 63 trail cameras have been capturing images of animals on Kaitake. The cameras are strapped to trees by traps and automatic lures. Every two months, the camera memory cards are collected by rangers and the data is analysed by an app.  

Biodiversity Ranger Katherine Turton is examining the camera network for her Masters in Pest Management at Lincoln University.  

She said stoats, possums, cats, hedgehogs, rats, mice and occasionally dogs have shown on the cameras. Kiwis are also spotted, and the information shared with the Taranaki Kiwi Trust.  

The cameras showed a sharp drop in the number of possums in 2021, which correlated with cyanide baiting, installation of the lean detection network and a period of intensive night hunting with dogs.  

The camera data has been backed up through the use of hunters with scat detection dogs. They found possums in the area where cameras had also recently shown possums.  

Katherine says, “I think one of the most surprising things was how well the scat detection data matched up with the camera detections, which was really reassuring. It shows us the camera network is a sensitive monitoring tool for detecting possums in lower densities across a large area.”  

Possums being caught in leg hold traps over the last year are predominantly juvenile males, indicating population collapse and that those now being caught are coming in from nearby farmland.  

The cameras are helping inform the next steps in trapping strategy. Changing the lean detection trap lines that have had no recent camera detections or captures and using in higher activity areas is one recommendation from Katherine’s research. Others include intensifying traps and cameras around boundary areas to stop reinvasion and deploying real-time notifications to devices of images, which could then deploy dogs for precision hunting.  

Katherine believes cameras are the most effective monitoring tool in the kete at the moment. “They are more expensive than other methods, such as tracking tunnels, but ultimately you get more data and you can target a wider range of species.”