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Animal Cam

High-tech security equipment is being used to identify bloodthirsty killers. Dr John Innes, of Landcare Research, is using an infrared laser camera and a time-lapse video recorder to monitor kokako and identify their predators.

In the past, 24-hour observations and videotapes that needed changing every three hours meant researchers spent a great deal of time checking on sites, disturbing birds and predators. The slower video recorders provide 72 hours of monitoring on a three-hour tape.

"It's been frustrating in the past checking on a nest to find the chicks have been taken and not knowing who is doing the predation," says Innes. Now he has some strong leads, with preliminary results indicating that the culprits during the vulnerable breeding season are harrier hawks, black rats and possums.

The system has also been used to study the relationship between the rare native short-tailed bat and the equally rare wood rose, Dactylanthus taylorii. It showed the bats feeding on the plant's nectar, pollinating it in the process. They compete against rats and possums which eat the rare plant and destroy it.

The bats move extremely fast, but a video image rate of five frames per second, down from 60 frames per second, was enough to reveal the unusual bat's behaviour. The short-tailed bat tends to feed on the ground, and the wood rose is the only bat-pollinated plant in the world to flower on the forest floor.