Making predator eradication 80,000 times more efficient

Introduced possum and ship rat eating song thrush chicks.
Three quarters of native bird nests end by predation. Image Credit: Nga Manu Images

We start our first blog with what sounds like an outrageously bold claim; that it is possible to make eradication of predators in New Zealand 80,000 times more efficient. Technology could make it possible.

The logic behind this number begins with the venture to activate long life solar powered digital lures (sound and image) throughout New Zealand bush and gardens. The lures have the ability to entice pests from a greater distance than traditional food lures, and use image recognition to identify and kill them with methods that do not need to be reset. This methodology also works close to 100% of the time.

Although there are currently many complexities with digital lures and fully automated trapping, it is a more promising option than traditional pest control for the following reasons:

  • Potentially the lure can last 100 times longer than food traps, being solar powered (which also translates to vastly lower labour costs).
  • Potentially only require 1/100th the number of traditional traps, as they can operate over ten times the distance (100 times the area).
  • One trap could target any pest: possum, rat, stoat, and feral cats. Hence ¼ the number of traps required.
  • Kill percentage could be closer to 100% rather than less than 50% for many current traps.
  • Moore’s law means there is likely to be a consistent exponential drop in cost and or improvement in performance over time.
  • The Cacophony Project is totally open source so any time there are improvements made they can be rolled out to all the networked traps around the country.

Prototype Cacophonometer

These collective improvements mean theoretically the traps could be 80,000 times more efficient: 100 (lure life) x 100 (trap intensity) x 4 (one trap, four pests) x 2 (kill ratio).

Although this does seem too good to be true, we have talked to numerous scientists and folks working in the industry who verify that it is possible.

Given the value to making New Zealand pest free we have set this up as a totally open source project so it can reach the goal as fast as possible. Anyone with solar power, audio/image and software development skills can contribute to developing the device. We will also need volunteers to set up devices around New Zealand to test the functionality.

We currently have a prototype device that has the following features:

  • Solar powered
  • Collects audio
  • Uploads files to the cloud
  • Ability to test audio and image lures

The Cacophony team has put a lot of work into building the data and project structures to make sure they are best-of-breed open source. The project has been split into workable chunks to make it easier to work on.

Please feel free to comment on or contribute to any of the projects. Your input will directly help get rid of pests from New Zealand and bring back a cacophony of bird song.

If this interests you, we provide more details on how digital lures can help eradicate pests 80,0000 times more effectively on our task tracking site.

You can also learn more about the high level structure of the project and what we have completed and are working on.