Rat perfume could save New Zealand's native birds
02 Apr 2008
Wild rats tricked into following their noses could leave New Zealand birds very chirpy.
Research by Massey University shows that wild rats are attracted to the scent of lab rats. This finding could pave the way for a rat-perfume used to draw out wild rats for trapping. The consequent reduction in predator numbers would have a positive impact on native bird populations.
The research idea is based on mate searching behaviours of rats in the wild. PhD researchers Anna Gsell and Mark Seabrook-Davison conducted the experiment in bush on a farm north of Auckland. Trails of paw prints were evidence of wild rats were coming out of the bush to check out the caged lab rats. Cages containing only rat-scented bedding were also used - these also attracted wild rats.
Gsell hoped the positive results of the study would lead the way for the commercial creation of a synthetic rat perfume from rat urine to be used in baits and traps.
The Department of Conservation (DOC) have also tested out the experiment. DOC used the researchers for an emergency rat-catching mission on a pest-free island in the Hauraki Gulf where a rogue rat was seen.
The university’s rats were walked on leashes around areas of the island, leaving their scent. The following day the rat was caught 50 metres from where the university's rats were placed in cages.
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