Early menopause could control stoats, possums: pest experts

Pest control experts are looking at testing on possums and stoats a chemical that triggers an accelerated menopause in mammals.

Landcare Research is currently in discussions with an American company, Senestech, which is developing the technology.

Phil Cowan, science leader on pest control technologies for Landcare told NZPA the state science company is negotiating an agreement "that will allow us to initiate joint research on these particular compounds later this year for possums and stoats".

The technology to chemically sterilise feral female pests stems from work done by scientists in Arizona, who investigated potential damage caused to ovarian follicles in women exposed to a chemical compound known as 4-vinylcyclohexene diepoxide, or VCD, used in manufacturing rubber tyres, polyesters and plastics.

A researcher at Northern Arizona University, Loretta Mayer found the non-toxic chemical also caused infertility in rats, and a company on the university campus at Flagstaff is developing it as a pest control.

Details were revealed to an invitation-only workshop on fertility control in wildlife management at Landcare's Lincoln campus.

The meeting was organised by the New Zealand government and the governments of Australia, the United States, and Britain, as part of development of more effective methods for wildlife management.

The first product being rolled out by an American company, SenesTech, is ContraPest to cut rat numbers in Southeast Asia's rice paddies, where rodents eat up to a third of the crop.

This is already being tested in Indonesia -- the world's largest producer of rice -- and the next test sites will be in the Philippines and Vietnam. And it is being registered for rodent control in Australia, where mice can be a serious problem in grain stores.

Now the company is developing another product, ChemSpay, which has already been proven to induce permanent sterility in female dogs after one exposure to the drug.

Dr Mayer and her team of researchers also are adapting the technology platform for population management of wild animals such as deer, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, horses, buffalo and elk as well as cats and dogs.

New Zealand has problems with feral cats, dogs, deer, elk and horses as well as possums and stoats.

Australia hopes to use the technology to use in managing kangaroo, wallaby and camel populations.