DOC says it will be looking at ways to further protect kea after the discovery of seven dead birds following a recent 1080 pest control operation on the West Coast.
Tests are currently being carried out on the birds to confirm initial indications that they have died from eating poison baits.
DOC's Franz Josef Waiau Area Manager, Wayne Costello said, “It is very disappointing to lose any kea. We know they are inquisitive birds but believed that a new baiting protocol would be successful in keeping kea safe. DOC will now be assessing the results and taking them into account for future operations.”
The seven dead birds were among a total of thirty eight kea that were fitted with radio transmitters as part of a four year programme to assess the risks and benefits of 1080 operations on kea populations. The local DOC team is checking but so far no other bird species have been found dead.
The aerial 1080 possum control operation involved three years of planning and was jointly run by the Animal Health Board and DOC. The operation covered 30,000 ha which included the South Ökärito kiwi sanctuary, North Ökärito forest, and a large forested buffer zone around Franz Josef township itself. The operation is intended to provide New Zealand’s rarest kiwi - rowi - protection from rats, stoats and possums as well as providing protection to local farms from the threat of bovine tuberculosis.
“Tracking work shows up to 60 percent of kea nests are attacked by predators. This research programme also involves monitoring nests through the current breeding season to assess whether safer conditions for kea chicks outweigh the risks to individual birds,” said Mr. Costello.
Wayne Costello says DOC will be looking to see if there are any specific circumstances in this operation which may have led to the bird deaths. It seems likely that the more open nature of the North Ökärito forest is a factor.
He said the work was part of on-going research into ways of minimising the impact of 1080 operations on kea. That is why we are looking into the use of baits that are less palatable to them and doing further work on bird repellents.