UPDATE: see our stretch goal sanctuaries further down the page!
Put simply: Trap pests. Save birds. Get notified. Make a difference.
We are Squawk Squad and we want to make New Zealand the most environmentally engaged country in the world.
How will we do this?
By connecting and engaging New Zealanders in the protection and growth of our native birdlife.
25 million New Zealand native birds are killed every year by pests that we didn’t invite to our shores and currently 77 of our bird species are threatened with extinction. There are billions of predators including rats, stoats and possums that are killing off our wildlife and our native birds are at the receiving end of the destruction.
The general perception is that this epidemic is under control yet even the kiwi bird, our national icon, is still decreasing at 2% every year. There are only 285 Takahē in existence and 160 Kākāpō, and our Yellow-eyed penguin is thought to be the rarest penguin in the world! This is only naming a few of our struggling native species.
What is Squawk Squad?
Squawk Squad connects people with sanctuaries by an app that gives them the ability to collectively invest in sensor-connected traps in aid of sanctuary projects. The investors can see where their trap is deployed in the sanctuary and are notified in real-time when their trap activates. This indicates the positive impact that their investment is having on native birdlife.
We use modern, self-resettable traps that trigger 24 times without any maintenance. Together with a live view of all traps and when they activate, sanctuaries are saved a considerable amount of labour time.
How does it work?
We use self-resettable traps designed by Goodnature that are focussed towards rats, stoats and possums. They are gas powered for 24 shots without any re-setting needed and their automatic lures last for 6 months. We use a sensor node designed by Encounter Solutions that we have developed towards sanctuary use. By leveraging the most modern technology available, we have created a self-reporting and self-resettable trap.
When the trap is triggered, the attached sensor node relays the trapping event data from the trap to a base station via a deployable low frequency radio network. Utilising satellite, a live notification is then sent to the sanctuary and users’ apps. This makes for a solution that can be deployed anywhere in the world.
Self-resettable traps can be expensive so a Squawk Squad is created to break down the cost of conservation into bite size pieces. Each Squad member contributes to the total cost of the trap, sensor node and full set-up. Sanctuaries receive our traps and technology at no cost and are only responsible for the gas and lure replacements. Each member of the squad sees where their trap is deployed. They are then notified every time the trap activates with the positive impact they are having on native birdlife.
What does this mean for sanctuaries?
Locating, checking, clearing and resetting conventional traps is extremely time consuming and inefficient. We equip sanctuaries with a live view of all our funded traps, when they activate and therefore when they need refuelling, resulting in a significant decrease in labour time. This could mean that traps only have to be checked every 6 months versus once every week!
To put that into perspective, over 3 years a 500 trap grid of our trapping systems can save over 10,000 hours of labour time or 1,300 worker days!
This enables our partnered sanctuaries to expand the areas they protect and focus the time of their trained staff on more technically demanding and tangibly rewarding tasks such as the reintroduction of species.
In March we installed our maiden project protecting Matuku Link river line out in the Waitakere Ranges. The project is currently live and in 5 weeks with only 10x A24 trapping systems, we have caught 15 rats with funders being notified instantly!
Squawk Squad in the media:
Auckland Harbour News
What will we do with the Kickstarter money?
Near-term: Your donation will fuel our first large-scale project at Ark in the Park sanctuary and will help fund our startup costs and software development.
Long-term: If we exceed our goals, we can increase the area protected at Ark in the Park's project and upgrade the sensor firmware!
Significantly over achieving our funding goal will allow us to set up a new project with another sanctuary and evolve the gamification aspect of the app!!
Ark in the Park Project
Our first large-scale project is in aid of Ark in the Park sanctuary. Ark in the Park is a wildlife sanctuary in a northern New Zealand rainforest, at the Cascade Kauri Park in Auckland's Waitakere Ranges Regional Park. Their sanctuary covers 2,200 hectares. By controlling non-native pests and predators, they help restore the ecology of the area to its natural state.
See below the location of Ark in the Park in the wider Auckland region.
For this project, we aim to deploy 40 of our trapping systems set up in a grid network protecting the outer border of Ark in the Park. The area we are protecting will be an extension of Ark in the Park’s current protected area aimed at defending nearby nesting Kokako.
Kokako are a rare New Zealand bird species that are threatened with extinction and have been reintroduced into Ark in the Park.
These traps will be funded by the Kickstarter and donated to Ark in the Park, where they will maintain these traps and refuel them accordingly. This will greatly reduce their current time spent on maintaining traps, giving them more time to work on other ways to revitalise the park to its natural state and reintroduce other threatened bird species.
Threatened bird species that reside in Ark in the Park:
- North island Kokako
- North Island Robin/Toutouwai
This project will benefit a wide range of different birds and the sanctuary they inhabit. Currently there are 45 different species sighted in this area, with plans to reintroduce other species into the mix.
These potential reintroductions include
* Yellow crowned Kakariki/Parakeet
* Kaka (May be self-reintroduced)
* In the future the Kiwi may be able to be reintroduced
Why stop no? Help us to hit $50,000 and we can support a second sanctuary. To keep things interesting we will let you, the backers, choose between three sanctuaries as to who gets the second project. Here are our contestants:
Our 3 Contending Sanctuaries!
Sanctuary Option #1:
The Te Rere penguin reserve near the southernmost point of the South Island is a 70 hectare area of regenerating forest owned by New Zealand’s Forest and Bird Society. The reserve was started in 1981 to protect yellow eyed penguins and now provides sanctuary for a variety of wildlife including little penguins, sooty shearwaters and forest birds. The Society has fenced the land, continues to replant native trees, regularly monitors wildlife and is building up a network of traps to control rats, stoats and possums.
With this project we aim to add to the internal network of conventional catch traps by adding monitored automatic traps to the outer boundary fence. This is remote area where the Society’s resources are stretched to regularly maintain the existing traps, so having an outer protective ring of automatic traps will be a great advantage.
Sanctuary Option #2:
Thames Coast Kiwi Care, a volunteer based conservation project focusing on protecting our very own iconic kiwi. More specifically the Coromandel brown kiwi. Despite the fact this bird is a cherished symbol of New Zealand (to the point we even affectionately pinch its name when referring to New Zealanders) it is still not only at risk but declining by 2-3% per year! According to experts within two generations the brown kiwi could be extinct in the wild.
We owe it to our native icon and future generations to support initiatives like Thames Coast Kiwi Care. In order to protect our flightless friends, create a safe environment for these young kiwi to grow and continue to breed, their trapping network needs to be increased!
Thames Coast Kiwi Care is only one of our three contenders rallying for the position of being our second sanctuary to support. If we hit our target of $50,000 we can ensure the second project goes ahead. Don’t fret for the sanctuary who doesn’t get the second position.
They are first in line for our future projects. Let’s help make New Zealand predator free and ensure our native birds thrive for generations to come!
Sanctuary Option #3:
The Pukaha Mount Bruce Wildlife Centre is a restoration project in the Wellington Region with the goal to restore the area of remnant indigenous forest and reintroduce native bird species. The main problem Pukaha has had to face is, you guessed it, pests. We love Pukaha as they are the proof of the dramatic change that can be made to an area with traps.
Once riddled with pests they have already drastically reduced the number of predators and this has given them the opportunity to successfully reintroduce native birds such as takahē, kiwi, kōkako and kākā! Kudos Pukaha!
The job isn’t over though. In order to continue to see them thrive and to reintroduce more native birds across the wildlife centre we need to support Pukaha in keeping our birds safe! Pukaha's 2016 census resulted in 30 pairs of kōkako being identified and they have now set a goal to increase that number to 100! If Pukaha is voted to be our second sanctuary project, we will protect their “frontface” to target rats and protect the resident kōkako population (and the other array of very special resident native birds).
This would also aid them to track their pest control and begin to minimise their reliance on toxins to control pests. Aside from the fantastic work they are doing in restoration Pukaha also has a keen focus on education having frequent guided tours and talks for not only interested members of the public but also kindergarteners right through to college students.
Let’s show Pukaha some love and help them to continue to do the incredible work they’ve been doing and keep New Zealand rich with our native birds and fauna! Remember, if you want Pukaha to be the second funded project you need to share this with others to support as it will be your votes that count!
A Kickstarter exclusive Squawk Squad tee made by Mr Vintage!
A guide to New Zealand's extraordinary birds! See book preview here
A guided tour through the pest-free sanctuary of Tiritiri Matangi!
Flights from Auckland to Queenstown and a Milford Sound nature cruise!
The t-shirt, book and vouchers for trips away will all be shipped in June. Shipping costs will be free in New Zealand however they will apply to any other country.
The trapping systems for Ark in the Park will not be setup and active until November, however we will be sure to keep you updated on our endeavours.
Squawk Squad was the social enterprise winner of Startup Weekend Auckland in November 2016. From this emerged our team of passionate New Zealanders all looking to protect and sustain the wildlife of our country.
Fraser McConnell Alex Hannon
--Team Lead-- --Engineering Lead--
Morgan McConnell Laurence Bechet
--Sales & Marketing Lead-- --Conservation Advisor--
Racheal Herlihy Tom Jackson
--Developer-- --Design Guru--
Nico Lumanglas Odette Colebrook
--Engineer-- --Sales & Marketing--
Fraser McConnell: Squawk Squad’s Cofounder and Team Lead is a Management Consultant & Mechanical Engineer. As an ex PwC consultant, he is experienced in project planning, strategic assessments and large scale transformation projects.
Alex Hannon: Squawk Squad’s Cofounder and Engineering Lead is a Mechanical Engineer & Developer. He is currently an engineer in the Vehicle Team at Rocket Lab designing and testing systems for outer space flight.
Between us we are rich with experience in conservation, technology and design and we continue to connect with New Zealand’s leading sanctuaries and conservation organisations.
Auckland University Press
Emelia Alice Design
NZ Stock Footage
Tech Week - Future Realities: 11th May - buy tickets here
Ark in the Park
Hudson Gavin Martin
Forest & Bird
Nathan Simo - videography assistance
Jonny Duncan - audio engineering assistance
The Kokako image above which was originally posted to Flickr.com, was uploaded to Commons using Flickr upload bot on 09:56, 6 June 2008 (UTC) by Kahuroa (talk). On that date, it was available under the license indicated. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. You are free: to share – to copy, distribute and transmit the work; to remix – to adapt the work; Under the following conditions: attribution – You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work).
Flock of Birds by Vladimir Belochkin
Locks by Aleksandr Vector
NZ Birds by Nicole Mancdonald, NZ
Risks and challenges
Are these trapping systems too expensive?
We believe that Squawk Squad's approach is likely to offer a pathway to the least expensive way to sustainably protect large areas of New Zealand wildlife. Firstly, it should be acknowledged that these are Kickstarter prices and not the price we will be providing trapping systems in the future - Kickstarter charges a fee on our funding. Contributing a trapping system to a sanctuary is not a short-term investment, it continues to perform over time and decreases the amount of labour required to maintain pest control. Also once taken to scale and as we begin to set up more and larger sanctuary projects, we can do production runs at lower costs.
Are sensors necessary?
When aiming for a pest-free sanctuary, reliability of your traps is of the utmost importance. When a trap is unable to function, the threatened species behind that line of defense are at risk. A live view of all trap activity eliminates the manual and time consuming effort of checking trap lines that could be up to 7 hours hike or even a chopper ride away!
Does existing tech work better?
Existing toxic-free trapping devices do not compete with the self-resettable, light weight and long-life lure of Goodnature's solution. Alternative sensors either require physical checking at the trap itself or use networks that struggle with high density bush and vast elevation change in terrain.
If they have survived this long, do we really need to save New Zealand birds?
Our native wildlife is not going to save itself. At least 56 New Zealand bird species have become extinct since human settlement. At this rate, your generation will witness the loss of a unique native species. Don't let this happen as it is something that can't be undone.
Invest in New Zealand’s wildlife.
- (30 days)