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EcoGecko wins $25,000 conservation award for lizard-monitoring system

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Ayla with a raukawa gecko at Baring Head ©Eloise Taylforth

News from WWF
The Wellington innovators behind a new-generation native lizard monitoring system are one of three groups each being awarded a $25,000 grant to recognise their contribution to innovation in conservation.

The three winners, from Wellington, Nelson and Tolaga Bay will be congratulated by TV3 presenter Samantha Hayes, and ‘bugman’ Ruud Kleinpaste at an event in Wellington on Thursday marking Conservation Week. The Conservation Innovation Awards are a WWF initiative which seek to unearth new ideas to boost conservation action in New Zealand.

The winning ideas are:

Lure, Trap & Retreat! – out-of-date 1960s ‘bucket’ traps are the current standard for monitoring more than 100 species of endemic New Zealand lizards. The idea of a new-style trap, submitted by Wellington-based EcoGecko Consultants, who describe lizards as the ‘forgotten fauna’, will replace these unreliable tools and help keep track of these ecologically important reptiles.

The Uawanui Project – this Iwi-led community project from the East Cape is based on the principle that a healthy environment means healthy people. With a long-term commitment to ensuring conservation becomes part of everyday life, the project seeks to integrate environmental efforts with economic, social and cultural development and education in the Uawa Tolaga Bay area.

Vespex Wasp Bait – invasive wasps cause around $60 million worth of damage to the New Zealand environment every year, and are responsible for stealing food from native species and killing newly hatched birds. Not to mention the hazards faced by conservation workers and anyone enjoying the outdoors. The Vespex wasp bait is a new protein-based bait that wasps carry back to their own nests – and which, importantly, is unattractive to bees. It has been successfully trialled in conjunction with the Department of Conservation and has environmental safety and good stewardship at the heart of its development.

WWF’s Michele Frank, who oversees community conservation projects for WWF nationwide, says the entries submitted to this year’s awards were inspirational.

“These awards are an exciting collaboration between people who share a passion for improving the natural environment. Using a crowdsourcing website, entrants posted their ideas publicly, joined discussions with site visitors and then adapted their ideas in response to comments,” says Michele.

“We are proud to be celebrating our winners for being at the forefront of conservation thinking and committed to developing ideas that look set to change the game. By harnessing creativity like this we can bring better tools to the community volunteer army and better protect our wildlife, sooner.”

The finalists in the awards were judged by an independent panel comprised of Matthew Monahan, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and co-founder of Kiwi Connect, Devon McLean director of Project Janszoon, Justine Daw, general manager of partnerships at Landcare Research, and Shane Inder, programme leader of Industrial Design at AUT.

About the WWF Conservation Innovation Awards
WWF’s annual conservation innovation awards are now in their second year, and are a celebration of Kiwi innovators whose ideas look set to make a real difference in the fight to protect our special places and wildlife. WWF, with the support of the The Tindall Foundation, is the leading organisation backing innovation in the grass-roots community conservation sector. We are proud to support the people on the frontline of conservation protecting our unique places and wildlife, and this year we have welcomed 90 Seconds as our awards video production partner – enabling us to better share their inspiring stories.

About WWF
WWF is one of the world’s largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, with over 5 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries. WWF’s mission is to stop the degradation of the earth’s natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world’s biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption.