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Invasive Animals CRC Tools to manage the (In)Famous Four

Posted by Bestprac on Jan 23 2012

By Liz Guerin
Over the last seven years the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre (IACRC) has developed more than twelve new species-targeted, humane and environmentally friendly tools for the management of invasive animal species such as wild dogs, foxes, cats and rabbits...


Over the last seven years the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre (IACRC) has developed more than twelve new species-targeted, humane and environmentally friendly tools for the management of invasive animal species such as wild dogs, foxes, cats and rabbits, which have made farmers’ and pastoralists’ jobs easier. Recently the IACRC was funded for a fourth term which recognises the value of work undertaken to date.

However, whilst the development and imminent release of many new tools and products is exciting, IACRC Program Leader for Products and Strategies, Associate Professor Steven Lapidge stresses that there are no ‘silver bullet’ solutions and that the principles of invasive animal control still remain the same.

“You need to be wise in how you use your tools and use an appropriate control method when the target species is at its most vulnerable. You also need to evaluate the outcome of your control efforts and refine your technique when required,” Dr Lapidge said. “Pest management is about what works on your place and every place is different. Successful pest management requires multiple tools which become part of your arsenal. Used well and in an integrated fashion these tools can deliver good results.”

The culmination of seven years of work, the IACRC have developed or researched a range of new tools for wild dog and fox control, including a predacide and mechanical ejectors.

A long time in the making, the wild dog and fox toxin known as PAPP was developed to make baiting more target specific, quicker and more humane. Working by rapidly depleting oxygen to the wild dog or foxes brain, PAPP results in the animal falling asleep, slipping into a coma and dying very peacefully.

“PAPP can kill a fox in an hour and a wild dog in an hour and a half compared to between 4 and 8 hours with 1080,” Dr Lapidge said.

Another benefit of PAPP is that it comes with a very effective intravenous antidote of methylene blue, to be marketed as ‘Blue-Healer®’. Although currently a ‘vets only’ medicine the IACRC are also looking at a tablet or a suppository form for land managers.

An application for scheduling of PAPP, a new chemical in Australia, was submitted to the Australian Pest and Veterinary Medicine Authority (APVMA) in September 2008. Full evaluation of the new products containing PAPP is estimated to commence shortly. The products will be registered under the names of DOGABATE® and FOXECUTE®

Other new tools for the control of wild dogs and foxes are mechanical ejectors. Comprised of a firing pin which shoots through a poison canister when the target species tries to take a bait, ejectors have been successfully used in America for over 60 years and are now registered for use in NSW National Parks. Advantages of ejectors are their longevity in the field and that they cannot be cached, therefore the potential risk to other animals is minimised.

“For areas where there are lots of dogs or foxes the devices can be left semi-permanently in place. IACRC collaborators are also looking at ‘long life’ lure heads and multi dose ejectors,” Dr Lapidge said.

Cat management can be difficult as they prefer live prey and tend to not take baits. However the CRC are looking at tools which will take advantage of cat grooming behaviour.

“If a cat gets anything on their fur they get it off within minutes. The CRC, with support from MLA, are developing cat tunnels, whereby the cat is lured inside the tunnel by the phonic of a crying rabbit. Once inside, sensors detect the shape of the animal, and if it is the right shape, a PAPP spray is triggered on their back which they then lick off,” Dr Lapidge said. “This is a whole new area of automated pest control and this technique can also be applied to foxes and wild dogs.”

Rabbits are also major issue in the rangelands and CRC research, supported by MLA and AWI, has confirmed suspicions that rabbits are becoming resistant to RHD. However, there are new tools being developed which will assist with rabbit control.

“Studies have shown that there are different levels of resistance to the current form of RHD and it depends on how frequently RHD has broken out there. Secondly, a number of years ago, a benign form of calicivirus was discovered that had been circulating in Australia for a long time giving rabbits a level of cross-immuno protection,” Dr Lapidge said. “So in high rainfall areas, where we thought calicivirus didn’t work well, the benign form of calicvirus had been circulating long before and rabbits were already somewhat immune to the virus.”

The CRC project, RHD boost is about identifying new calicivirus strains which have high rabbit mortality that may overcome current immunity.

“There are calici viruses all around the world. We have numerous strains in Australia at the moment that are being examined, so potentially a new calicivirus strain could be released down the track.”

One of the limitations with calicivirus is that, as a live virus, it needs to be shipped on dry ice and is then classified as dangerous goods and expensive to move. To overcome this problem the CRC have developed a freeze dried form which can be moved around in the post. This product is about to go to registration.

Lastly for rabbit control, a carbon monoxide fumigator has been developed which produces almost pure carbon monoxide from propane. Carbon monoxide euthanases rabbits very quickly and humanely. Field trials are about to get underway and there is huge interest in this product around the world.

All CRC innovations and information have been distilled into a PestSmart Toolkit which has been designed to provide farmers and land managers with up-to-date information and guidance on best-practice invasive animal management.

Information is provided in various forms such as fact sheets, case-studies, technical manuals, videos and scientific reports.

Early in 2012, the PestSmart Roadshow will be touring nationally. It will showcase best practice pest management, including the latest innovations brought to you by the species experts.

“Each Roadshow event will be different as it will cover the pest species relevant to the area,” Dr Lapidge said. “Regardless of the tools used, ultimately, landholders need to be proactive about pest control,” Dr Lapidge said.

“Where possible coordinate pest control with your neighbours to ensure the results are maximised,” Dr Lapidge said. “Thinking strategically is important – timing, tool choice and tenacity is what it is all about.”

More information, including dates and locations of PestSmart Roadshows can be found at

Other useful sites -

Last changed: Jan 23 2012



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