New hunting technology wins Kiwi conservation prize

Hunters have been using heat-detecting technology for decades, but it's now gaining recognition as a conservation game-changer.

A young couple from Upper Hutt has won a $20,000 grant for thermal imaging gear, which they say could be a vital tool in the war on invasive species.

Jordan Munn, 25, and his wife Mikayla's business, Trap and Trigger, has been focussed on hunting pests with detection dogs.

He's been hunting for seven years, and it's enough time to work out how tough it is to eradicate pigs and goats in rugged terrain.

"We've already been in the field and done some stuff and we just want to create better benefits for the ecosystem and make a real difference," he says.

He says eradication projects reach a stalemate because animals like pigs and goats wise up over time and become harder to track.

"They become wary and so they become smarter and find ways to evade hunters. They live in hard-to-reach places and they learn how to get away from dogs."

His thermal unit gives an image twice as clear as units currently used by recreational hunters. A military-grade laser pointer guides the pilot and shooter, and his chest-mounted camera with a mechanical arm allows him to spot animals a kilometre away. Plus, a new headset will control the camera with head movement.

That innovation has won Mr Munn a $20,000 grant in the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Conservation Innovation Awards.

"Nothing like this exists. To bring that to life and to make it more available for people to use in their conservation work is going to be an amazing game-changer," says WWF CEO Livia Esterhazy.

The benefit of Mr Munn's technology is that he can track an animal that would otherwise be unseen to the naked eye. From 200m away, he can see something as small as a coffee cup.

That means the unit can be used to conduct bird surveys, identify hotspots in out-of-control bush fires, or help with projects like eradicating pigs on the Auckland Islands.

"We really want to be a part of those eradications that have long-term benefits, so we've come up with this tool to be at the front of the line to say we can help," says Mr Munn.

As for the goal of a predator-free New Zealand by 2050, he says it'll be a big job.

Newshub.

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