To mark Conservation Week, three kiwi innovators have each been awarded a $25,000 grant, in recognition of their contribution to developments in conservation.

The Conservation Innovation Awards are an initiative of WWF, and are intended to encourage fresh thinking around conservation action in New Zealand.

Wellington-based EcoGecko Consultants received one of the grants for Lure, Trap & Retreat! - a new style trap for monitoring the many species of lizards endemic to the country. This will replace the 1960s 'bucket' traps currently in use, which EcoGecko says are unreliable and inadequate for keeping track of the 'forgotten fauna'.

The Uawanui Project is an iwi-led community project from the East Cape which received another grant. It is underlined by the philosophy that a healthy environment means healthy people, promoting long-term commitment by people to make conservation part of their everyday lives. The project particularly focuses on linking environmental initiatives up with economic, social and cultural development and education in the area around Uawa Tolaga Bay.

With over $60m worth of damage being inflicted on New Zealand's environment every year by invasive wasps, which also steal food from native species and killing newly hatched birds, it's an ongoing uphill battle. However, a new wasp bait called Vespex has the potential to turn the tide. Its designer Richard Toft at Entecol Ltd has received one of the $25,000 grants in the Conservation Innovation Awards. Wasps find the protein-based product irresistible, carrying it back to their nests and finishing them off. As an added bonus, Vespex is not attractive to bees, which need to be left alone to ensure the stability of local ecosystems. Vespex has been trialed in conjunction with the Department of Conservation, with environmental safety and care being held as key values.

To get a bigger picture of what trouble wasps pose to New Zealand, check out Te Radar's article about them here.

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"These awards are an exciting collaboration between people who share a passion for improving the natural environment," says WWF's Michele Frank.

"Using a crowdsourcing website, entrants posted their ideas publicly, joined discussions with site visitors and then adapted their ideas in response to comments.

"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 made up of Matthew Monahan, 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.

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