Why aiming for 100% predator elimination matters

Latest version of The Cacophony Project predator detector with infra-red and thermal cameras.

There are numerous ways to go about improving predator elimination from an engineering point of view. The two extremes are:

  • Use the minimum technology possible to improve what we have now. There is lots of room for improvement!
  • Try to create the ultimate device and then try to make it cheaper

We need to try every approach as no one way has guaranteed success. There are lots of great opportunities for incremental improvement but the goal of The Cacophony Project is to create the ultimate device that can eliminate 100% of predators.

Our design philosophy is to create a device that can:

  • Identify 100% of the predators out there – unless you can do this there is no way to know how well you are progressing (looks like we are very close to a device that can do this)
  • Lure 100% of the predators – there are lots of possibilities with using digital lures
  • Kill 100% of the predators

We will  aim for the above goals  and then work out ways to make the device cheaper. Wherever possible the technologies used are digital with the possibility of massive cost reductions and/or improvements over time.

Below are some reasons why  aiming for a device that can achieve 100% elimination is worth striving for:

  • The most obvious reason is that once pests are eliminated you don’t need to keep coming back to control them, so long term cost is much lower.
  • There is a need for dramatically fewer traps. Having five lines of traps that kill 80% is not as good as one line that kills 100%.
  • Reinvasions are much easier to manage.
  • The way devices can be deployed changes dramatically – you can move a line of devices over an area to completely eliminate all predators in a systematic way.
  • Even one predator can do dramatic amounts of damage. One cat is thought to be responsible for extinction of a species of Wren on Stephens Island (or possibly next generation of cats). One stoat has wiped out a population of saddleback in a fenced sanctuary. One pregnant rat can create a colony that explodes rapidly in a food rich environment.
  • Whenever you have a method of elimination with less than 100% kill ratio then the future kill ratio is likely to be lower. The reason for this is that the surviving population will breed and amplify the genes of predators that are less susceptible to the device. Trap wariness is well known anecdotally and hopefully we can measure this more accurately with this project. More importantly if we aim for 100% elimination it will not be an issue.

Obviously aiming for 100% is harder and more expensive to start with but choosing options that have the possibility is worth the effort. While many of the technologies developed by The Cacophony Project can help more normal trapping, we will choose methods that, at least theoretically, can lure, identify and eliminate 100% of predators.