Rakiura Community goes high-tech with pest control

Department of Conservation —  02/10/2019

The Stewart Island/Rakiura Community and Environment Trust (SIRCET) first adopted DOC’s Walk the Line smart phone trapping app about three years ago for its 210-hectare Halfmoon Bay Habitat Restoration Project.

Before that data was being recorded in a single spreadsheet on a portable hard drive. Analysis of trap records wasn’t easy. Trap locations had already been recorded, but weren’t on a single system. Fast forward to 2019: DOC’s Walk the Line tool is now available for SIRCET volunteers.

SIRCET volunteer PJ Kim.

Having a centralised system like this just makes sense. Resident volunteers can now enter their own trap check data, and it’s great for reporting as there is never a huge backlog. If SIRCET needs to know how many rats, feral cats or possums have been caught within a certain time period that information is right at their fingertips. It’s also useful to share and encourage SIRCET’s followers and supporters on Facebook:

Reliable data has meant SIRCET is able to work in a smarter way by targeting the areas that catch the most pests. Every trap on the ground is an asset and SIRCET needs to ensure that these are accounted for and fully functioning. This approach has lead to a huge reduction in pest numbers, with one 2018 rodent tracking tunnel results coming back at 0%.

SIRCET also hosts visiting volunteers, who have travelled to Stewart Island/Rakiura for a conservation experience. Although Pest Manager Willy Gamble now encourages all volunteers to use Walk the Line, it hasn’t always been this way. Previously, all volunteers scribbled their results on notepaper, which made data entry very time consuming and sometimes inaccurate. This Walk the Line trial has been a resounding success. Not only can Willy tell which lines have been checked on any given day, but there is no longer a need to transpose handwritten results into the database. It has also proved useful as a navigation aid for new volunteers and negates the need to bring a separate GPS with them.

Last year SIRCET implemented a trap line for Halfmoon Bay School on the Fuchsia Walkway as well as around the school grounds. The students and Willy check the lines most weeks and use the app to log data. It’s a great way to incorporate learning about pest control and technology as well as maps and statistics. Willy also incorporates it with visiting school groups, such as Queenstown Primary School.

Willy with Queenstown Primary students.

“It may sound geeky, but Walk the Line feels less like an app to me, and more like a video game. I liken it to geocaching, or even pop culture successes like Pokémon go. The difference is, instead of the game of catching Pokémon, creatures that arguably don’t exist, this game is to catch introduced predators: very real creatures that pose a major threat to our forests. Game-a-fying pest control is a great way to get more people involved in grass roots conservation so that we can ultimately reach the perfect high score of being predator free. Thanks to Martin Slimin and the DOC Geospatial Services team for helping us get closer to that goal” -Willy Gamble.

Walk the Line was initially created in 2011 to support trapping efforts of the Whio Recovery Programme as part of the Whio Forever partnership with Genesis Energy. It is now available to support all conservation efforts both for DOC-led operations and external, including community, iwi, local authority and private projects. In 2018 the 2 millionth trap record was recorded in the system and capability was expanded to include ground-based pesticide work, which enables external parties to report to the Department where they have applied pesticides and links in with the Pesticides application.

You can find more information about SIRCET here.

One response to Rakiura Community goes high-tech with pest control


    This is just great. As one of the co-ordinators for Conservation Highbury – an urban trapping group on the edge of Wellington’s Zealandia – I’m excited about any technology that will enable us to log kills, get a bigger picture of what’s going on, and adapt our strategies accordingly. I reckon it will attract younger folks to our projects, too.