There are many reasons why we use 1080 for predator control. Our rationale for its use has been carefully considered, as well as each practical situation when we apply it to respond to control needs:
We're aware of animal welfare concerns
Choosing any tool for predator control presents ethical considerations and it’s understandable that people are concerned about controlling introduced predators with toxins.
Introduced predators such as rats, stoats and possums are not considered inherently bad, but their relentless predation is gradually driving many of our precious native species to extinction.
To fulfil its job of protecting New Zealand’s native species, DOC has had to make hard decisions about controlling predator numbers. Although we are working on developing other options, at the moment we have to control the huge number of predators in our native landscapes by using aerial 1080.
Introduced predators don’t belong in New Zealand
It’s not natural for predators like rats, stoats and possums to be living in New Zealand.
These animals fit perfectly into their original ecosystems in other countries. Their prey and their predators evolved with them overseas, and a natural balance developed that kept their numbers under control.
In New Zealand, the situation is completely different. Our native species evolved without ground-dwelling predators and developed no defences against them. When rats, stoats and possums were introduced to our shores (intentionally and by accident) our native species were literally sitting ducks.
The number of predators has continued to grow. They kill an estimated 25 million native birds every year. If we don’t keep the number of predators down, our treasured native species will become extinct – some within two human generations.
1080 works well in New Zealand
Because 1080 targets rats, mice and possums, and is effective for controlling stoats (when they scavenge the other poisoned animals), it’s well-suited to the predator control we need to do here.
New Zealand is unusual because apart from bats, there are no native mammals. This means 1080 can be used to control introduced predators without impacting our native population. Countries with endangered land mammals don't use 1080 as much.
One 1080 treatment about every 3 years is usually enough to protect our native species.
1080 is found in nature so it dilutes and biodegrades rapidly
1080 dilutes rapidly to harmless levels in waterways – it is almost always undetectable after 24 hours. Because it is a natural compound (found in Australian and South African plants), 1080 is degraded by microorganisms in the soil and does not build up in insects, fish or plants.
It’s our only option in vast, remote or rugged areas
Many of New Zealand’s wild places are steep, inaccessible and covered in thick forest – perfect for birds but not for humans. Trapping in these areas is not feasible because of the number of traps needed and the trap lines that would have to be cut, walked regularly and maintained.
Because aerial 1080 is applied so accurately over large areas, complete coverage is achieved. It leaves no untreated areas where pockets of pest populations could survive and repopulate the surrounding areas.
Booming predator numbers need a fast response
Introduced predator numbers can explode in years when the climate enables forest trees to produce large amounts of fruit. In these mast years, rats can have litters of up to 14 pups, five times a year. More predators increase the risk to our native species, so at these times we need do immediate and widespread pest control to protect them. Only aerial 1080 operations are fast enough to protect vast, remote and rugged areas from pest population booms.
Results prove 1080 works
Monitoring studies and peer-reviewed research over more than 20 years show that one aerial 1080 operation every few years is enough to keep the number of predators down so our native species can survive and breed.
For kiwi, only 5% of chicks make it to breeding age without predator control. With predator control (including 1080) up to 60% of the chicks survive to breeding age. Also, more than 583 kiwi have been monitored through 1080 operations since 1990 and not one has died from 1080 poisoning.