Introduction

Banning poisons from New Zealand would push vulnerable native bird species towards extinction and put our multi-billion dollar dairy and meat industries at unacceptable risk.

Date:  13 November 2009

Banning poisons from New Zealand would push vulnerable native bird species towards extinction and put our multi-billion dollar dairy and meat industries at unacceptable risk.

New Zealand’s native wildlife and forests face a daily battle against attack by rats, stoats and possums. Without protection, nine out of ten North Island kiwi chicks born in the wild will be killed before they reach one year old.

Possums infected with tuberculosis cause the overwhelming majority of new TB infections in cattle and deer herds around the country. 1080 is vital to stopping the spread of diseased possums and protecting New Zealand’s annual $12 billion dairy and meat export trade.

Without weapons like biodegradable 1080 and the rat poison brodifacoum, New Zealand would lose whole populations of native birds and vast tracts of native forest to rats, stoats and possums.

Brodifacoum has helped us completely clear pests off more than 50 islands around NZ, including such well known sanctuaries as Tiritiri Matangi, Kapiti , Campbell Island and Whenua hou (Codfish Island). Native forests and threatened wildlife like kakapo, kiwi, albatross, saddleback and tuatara now flourish on those islands.

There are a lot of wild and inaccurate claims currently being made about toxins. Critics claim 1080 is contaminating water supplies, killing kiwi and getting into our food exports. There is no evidence to back these claims – they are simply not true.

New Zealanders can research the facts for themselves. We should not allow a deliberate campaign of misinformation and fear to put the fate of our wildlife and our agricultural exports at risk.

DOC and the Animal Health Board use toxins sensibly and both use ground control options – traps, bait stations and shooting –widely. Aerial 1080 treatment accounts for about 20 percent of AHB’s pest control operations and DOC uses aerial 1080 on less than two percent of publically managed conservation land.

DOC and the AHB also jointly spend more than $2 million annually researching a range of alternative pest control methods.

But in challenging circumstances – such as rat plagues or difficult country – aerial poison operations are the most cost effective method for controlling predators and disease carrying possums.

Al Morrison,  Director-General, Department of Conservation.
William McCook, Chief Executive, Animal Health Board.  

Further information

Pest Control and Conservation

  • New Zealand has already lost dozens of native bird and animal species and our remaining native species have one of the highest threat classification risk levels on the planet.
  • Biodegradable 1080 and the rat poison brodifacoum have been used to successfully clear islands like Tiritiri Matangi, Kapiti and Cod Fish of rats, possums and other pests. These pest-free sanctuaries are critical to breeding programmes for a range of birds including kakapo, kiwi and albatross.
  • DOC has monitored more than 200 kiwi during aerial 1080 operations – some for up to a year. No kiwi have ever been killed by 1080, no traces of 1080 have been found in kiwi eggs and there is no sign of kiwi starvation due to 1080 killing the insects kiwi feed on.
  • DOC uses aerial 1080 on less than two percent of publicly managed conservation land. Ground control programmes involving trapping, shooting or  bait stations covers more than twice as much area as aerial 1080 operations.

Pest Control and Bovine Tuberculosis

  • Possums infected with tuberculosis are responsible for the overwhelming majority of new TB infections in cattle and deer herds around the country.
  • Bovine tuberculosis is controlled in New Zealand to protect premium market access for our diary, beef and venison industries – worth a combined $12 billion a year.
  • Aerial 1080 operations can kill up to 98 percent of possums in target areas and are highly effective in keeping numbers low enough to prevent the spread of tuberculosis within possum populations and onto farms.
  • Possum control is the key to bovine TB control in New Zealand. When funding for possum control was cut in 1980, infected herd numbers more than tripled to 1694 in 14 years. Resumption of funding of widespread possum control programmes since then have seen infected herd numbers steadily decrease to 130 infected herds today.

Facts on 1080

  • The active ingredient in 1080 is a naturally occurring substance which has been developed by plants to discourage animals chewing their leaves. It is  found naturally in a large number of plants, including tea and puha.
  • 1080 is biodegradable and dilutes rapidly in water. It is broken down in the water and soil by micro-organisms into harmless natural by-products.
  • More than 2000 water samples have been taken after 1080 operations and the Ministry of Health’s town drinking water standards of two parts of 1080 per billion parts of water have never been breached.
  • 1080 is highly effective against imported mammals like rats and possums but native birds, invertebrates and insects are less susceptible. 1080 is well suited for use in New Zealand as the only native land mammals are two species of native bat.
  • Animals, insects and birds that consume small doses of 1080 excrete the toxin naturally with no discernible impact. Studies show little or no effect on insects or freshwater animals like eels and crayfish exposed to 1080. 1080 does not accumulate in a living “food chain.”
  • Plants take up only small traces of 1080 and process it naturally out within impact. A recent study showed that even at maximum levels a 70 kg person would need to eat over two tonnes of puha –grown in a stream containing 1080 baits –to put themselves at significant risk.
  • Aerial has cut the amount of 1080 per hectare applied during aerial operations by up to 90 percent in the past ten years. It has also introduced new measures to improve the effectiveness against pests and to minimise the risk to native species.

For further contact

Federated Farmers, Donald Aubrey, + 64 27 623 7157
Forest and Bird, Kevin Hackwell, +64 21 227 8420
Science Media Centre, Peter Griffin, +64 21 859 365

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