WWF's Conservation Innovation Awards

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Squawk Squad

Now anyone can help save our native birds with the swipe of a thumb!

Squawk Squad connects people with sanctuaries via a web-app that gives them the ability to collectively fund sensor-connected traps in aid of sanctuary projects. The funders 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.

Squawk Squad is growing a connected community of eco-guardians by an easy and affordable way of making a difference from anywhere. This is an opportunity to defend our native birdlife and bring back the dawn chorus now and for future generations.

You can see a video the team created for our Kickstarter here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m3zsBf9meho

Or on our website: www.squawksquad.co.nz

What conservation problem are you trying to solve?

Aotearoa was once a land ruled by birds, without a single land mammal. Now, 25 million New Zealand native birds are killed every year by pests that we didn't invite to our shores and 77 of our bird species are threatened with extinction.

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 Takahe in existence and 160 Kakapo, and our Yellow-eye penguin is thought to be the rarest penguin in the world. This is only naming a few of our struggling native species.

New Zealand has addressed this issue with a big audacious goal - "Predator Free 2050" aimed to rid New Zealand of rats, stoats and possums by 2050. This is not a goal that can just be left to fragmented conservation efforts or an under-funded DOC. 

How are you going to solve this conservation problem?

We use self-resettable traps designed by Goodnature that target rats, stoats and possums. They are gas powered for 24 shots without any re-setting needed and their automatic lures last for up to 6 months.

We use a sensor node designed by Encounter Solutions that we have developed towards sanctuary use. By integrating globally proven New Zealand technology we have created a self-reporting and self-resettable trap. 

As these traps can be expensive we break down the cost of conservation by allowing people to collectively fund traps with Squads. Each squad member can see where their trap is deployed and is notified in real-time whenever a trapping activity occurs. Key metrics such as the number of pests trapped, the sanctuary leaderboard, bird noise level and reintroduced species are also relayed back to Squad members.

What makes your idea new and unique?

A lot of people want to help out but don't know how or don't have the time to volunteer. Squawk Squad provides everyone with the opportunity to get involved in this Predator Free 2050 movement. We offer transparency into where your money is going by showing where your trap is located and sending live notifications. A key focus is in growing this community of eco-guardians. Over three years, we aim to engage 100,000 New Zealanders and supply a minimum of 20,000 trapping systems to sanctuaries nationwide.

Defending our native birds is commendable on its own but we believe that the greater impact is made by engaging New Zealanders in conservation. Once engaged we will educate them on further ways they can take care of our wildlife and as a result, we will empower them to make their own difference. Ultimately, we want to make New Zealand the biggest bird sanctuary in the world. 

Who will use your idea, and how will they benefit?

Aside from having New Zealanders becoming eco-guardians as they invest in the protection of our birds we are also greatly benefiting sanctuaries.

Over 3 years a 500 trap grid of our trapping system can save over 10,000 hours of labour time or 1,300 worker days! Locating, checking, cleaning and resetting conventional traps is extremely inefficient and can consume as much as 80% of a sanctuaries time. Not to mention the fact that if a pest has been caught and remains in the traditional trap this is now not protecting the area until it is checked. We equip sanctuaries with a live view of all funded traps when they activate and therefore when they need refuelling. This results in a significant decrease in labour time. This could mean that traps only have to be checked every 6 months.

Additionally, with the real-time data we collect, we may be able to find new insights alongside researchers and specialists on how we can provide even greater protection for our birds or more efficient trapping.

What tasks or activities do you need investment for? How would you spend a $25,000 grant?

Squawk Squad is built on being a community project. We need people to know about Squawk Squad in order to be able to grow our community and make a bigger impact in protecting our birds. With the money, we would dedicate a large portion of this to running a range of fun, interactive school campaigns to educate our young minds on conservation in New Zealand and what Predator Free 2050 means. Education at a grassroots level also means that every student can take this knowledge home to their whanau and friends.

Secondly, The Cacophony Project is openly providing us with their technology. At present, this includes a “Cacophonometer” of which we can alter an old android phone to measure bird noise level of all sanctuaries before and after our project installs. A simple future project will entail funding a “Cacophonometer” for every sanctuary in New Zealand. This data would turn the dawn chorus into a measurable nationwide performance metric.

Are you a New Zealand citizen or resident?


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List five other ideas posted in the challenge that excite you. Why?

The Cacophony Project - For their brilliant vision and creating an open source platform to accelerate them there as fast as possible. Go The Cacophony Project!

Hanging Gardens of New Zealand - We love any verticle farming and New Zealand needs more of it.

NZ Auto Traps - In order to move towards a Predator Free New Zealand, we need to sharpen the efficiency of our tools as much as we can. Love the goal of 100 rats over 12months without servicing needed.

The Drone Ranger - In the conservation land of a lot of pencil to paper recording, it is important to measure the positive impact that we are creating. Great to see that we are utilising available techology for new innovative approaches of data acquisition.

Ur-bins - New Zealand's cities lack compost use. Anyone working in this space and reducing urban food waste gets a hi-five from Squawk Squad!

How could you improve your idea?

We believe that the technology we are currently using is only the beginning. We can continure to improve by utilising cutting-edge New Zealand technology to connect New Zealand to conservation efforts.

An example of this would be a drone that autonomously maps it's way through the sanctuary forest and takes count of all native bird species, pairs and juveniles. This would provide our users with an accurate and regular data of the positive impact they are having. A drone deploying our traps would also be rather nice! The best part is that neither of these technologies are far off from existing in a feasible model.

edited on Oct 14, 2017 by Squawk Squad

Megan Somerville Sep 26, 2017

Hi. I would love to have you unpack your thoughts on 'fun, interactive school campaigns" to align with the squawk squad vision. how would it help students learn about/in/for the environment?


Squawk Squad Sep 27, 2017

Kia ora Megan! We have actually teamed up with DOC, Predator Free 2050, Zealandia and Forest and Bird to create lesson plans for teachers to run over conservation week next month! You can see this on our Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SquawkSquadNZ/videos/1782100682087802/

We launched that on Sunday and already have 580 classes signed up by their teachers so that tells us this is something they are interested in which is very exciting!


Brent Beaven Sep 30, 2017


Have heard great things about Squak Squad, but although I found this exciting, I was left a bit confused. I wasn't sure if this was a PF2050 focussed piece of technology, or an education focussed initiative. Is the whole system the innovation, or a specific component of it? This could be educational, a way of gathering and linking funders, a tool for reporting for sanctuary's, a piece of technology...or all of these. You have the potential for something really cool here, but my advice is to refine your entry to have a bit more focus and clarity.




Squawk Squad Oct 2, 2017

Kia ora Brent! Thanks for your feedback. As you have spotted we are all of those things.
- We are helping sanctuaries by providing data and reducing the maintenance time they usually spend on traps.
- We are a way that anyone can be a part of the Predator Free 2050 movement.
- We can educate not only our youth but anyone who funds a trap with Squawk Squad.

Perhaps that wasn't clear enough in the entry and we will look at editing that today. At the heart of it, we want to create a community that connects people with protecting and growing our native wildlife. We don't feel we have to be one or the other from the list above but instead, we are multifaceted and we think that's how we can make the most impact.

Thanks again Brent!

Users tagged:


Brent Beaven Oct 6, 2017

Hi Squak team.
One week to go. I would spend the time left to keep refining this idea. The overall system description is good, but it makes it hard to pin down the specific innovation. Keep seeking definition and clarity to make it easy for the judges.
I'll check on progress mid-week.
Good luck,


Jennifer Mcguire Oct 10, 2017

I know a few people who would subscribe to this sort of app. Interesting ideas - I particularly like the Cacophonometer! Good luck with the project guys.


Squawk Squad Oct 20, 2017

Thanks Jennifer! We love the team at Cacophony and are excited to be working with them to make our project even more engaging for our community.


Christine Daniel Oct 10, 2017

As a teacher, i love the education resources provided by the Squawk Squad! Really inspiring and informative for our next generation of eco guardians.


Squawk Squad Oct 20, 2017

Thanks so much Christine! We really appreciate that. It has been wonderful to hear all the positive feedback from teachers and parents who have had kids become very enthusiastic about our native wildlife thanks to the conservation week resources! If you have a link to any photos/videos of your class doing the activities let us know. Here's one of the many I am still catching up on from Room 4 at St Anne's: https://youtu.be/8uCV1OG-Y2g We love the kids talking about their favourite bird and the teachers song choice is great! :)

Users tagged:


Vesko Gavrilov Oct 12, 2017

Hi I am one of the Kickstarter backers. The innovation is that every contributor will know exactly when his chosen trap activated and how many times. So the results of the contribution will be visible in an app. It's not like donating and not knowing how your donated money have been used. Good luck with the campaign!


Squawk Squad Oct 20, 2017

Hey Vesko! Thanks for coming with us on this journey! Your support means the world to us. We quite literally couldn't do it without you. Transparency was huge for us and like you say we want to make sure people know exactly where their money has gone and everytime they get a notification they will be reminded of the impact they are having and that it was money well spent protecting our birds!


Daniel Bar-Even Oct 13, 2017

Hi there. Trap.NZ ( https://www.trap.nz ) has been running for over three years now and has nearly 700 trapping project groups around New Zealand enrolled. It is free for anybody to use and already has the ability to notify users (by text or email) when a radio sensor trap has been triggered and how many times. It ​is ​designed to be an open, public system that can handle any trap type or sensor system. We currently have data coming in from sensor enabled DOC 200s, rat traps, and A24s. We support Sigfox, Econode, and Lora networks - and can link in any other network via an API. The system ​is ​also used for managing bait stations and monitoring data (chew cards, tracking tunnels, etc).

Most trapping projects use a variety of traps and will need to track data from both conventional traps and sensor enabled traps. What would be really cool is if people could fund any sort of trap and on any project. It would be great if you guys could work with Trap.NZ - it seems that a lot of the systems and infrastructure you need is already built into Trap.NZ. A mechanism to fund traps and give feedback could be integrated with it relatively easily.


Squawk Squad Oct 21, 2017

Hi Daniel,

Long story short, is that we would love to link up with Trap NZ and have some discussions around how we might work together.

Will be interested in seeing what processes you have for integrating APIs and how well that is suited for generating real time analytics.

At the moment we are moving super fast and have our data handing well under way. There are certain features which make our data “unpalatable” for hitching up our API to someone elses proverbial wagon. Will be great to gain some incite into Trap NZ and how flexible you might be to our needs and goals for the future.

Alex Hannon - CoFounder and Engineering Lead
alex@squawksquad.co.nz (flick me an email)


Becky Wilson Oct 14, 2017

The idea has been progressed to the next milestone


Grantryan Oct 17, 2017

Great team doing some excellent work!


Squawk Squad Oct 20, 2017

Thanks Grant! We love what you do and are so stoked to be collaborating on some exciting projects with you!