NZ playing key role in US military's research into controlling rats

Source: 1News

The US military is investing $6 million in research into gene technology to control the spread of rats, with New Zealand playing a key role.

Researchers want to use NZ's islands for the study, which would see rat DNA "edited" to control breeding.

Conservation Biologist James Russell said the United States is interested in the way New Zealand has eradicated rats from islands.

"They want to have a discussion about how we would work together in the future to get more rats off more islands."

Mr Russell said the current method the Department of Conservation used is poison.

However, if we want to scale up, "we’re going to need to look at new technology," he said.

"What has a lot of potential and a lot of talk at the moment is this gene drive technology, this idea of maybe editing the genes of these test species.

"Say they only have offspring of one sex and eventually breed themselves to extinctions."

He said there are a lot of ethical questions of "different flavours" behind that.

"There are some positive ethics, instead of poisoning rats we are humanely using fertility control so they eventually die out."

"Lots of questions we’ve been thinking about this year."

Mr Russell said they have also been looking at eradicating mosquitoes, a move that would potentially save hundreds of people from malaria.