News Zealand's 1080 Poison Debate Heats Up - Kiwi Kill

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The 1080 poison debate has always been a hot one in New Zealand. Hunters have fought hard against the use of the poison from day one due to the collateral effect they have witnessed from the poison drops.

This debate is as relevant in Australia as departments trial control methods, which involves the use of 1080 and other poisons.

1080 is the poison of choice for New Zealand's Department of Conservation (DOC), and over the years hunters have observed drops killing way more than their intended targets. A recent example of this was seen when an entire whitetail herd was almost wiped out of a valley after a 1080 drop took place that was only meant to target stoats and possums.

A recent freedom of information request revealed some alarming news. 89 kiwi birds were found dead after the Tongariro forest was 1080 poisioned. The even more alarming thing that was identified was that of the 89 birds discovered DOC did not test one for 1080 poisioning. 

This is an offical press release from the Graf Bothers

“It has been revealed through an OIA request that tagged kiwi have been dying in large numbers in one of our most heavily 1080 treated forests.

Aerial 1080 drops first began in the Tongariro Forest in 1976 and have been followed with subsequent drops in parts of the forest in 1988, 1989, 1991, and over much of the forest in 1995, 1996, 1997, 2001, and 2006. Another drop was carried out last week covering around 15,000 hectares.

It would be reasonable to assume, after so much 1080 poison has been spread across the forest, there could be no sign of a ferret or stoat for miles – surely?

Not so. In the last 5 years, revealed through the DoC OIA request, 89 tagged kiwi, of all ages, have died in the Tongariro forest. Keeping in mind that the tagged kiwi only represent a fraction of the wild population, the actual numbers, from a population perspective, may be enormous.

More concerning is what’s killing the birds. The assumed cause of death, in most cases … is predation by ferret. We are told by DoC kiwi can defend themselves from mustelid attacks, once they reach 1.5kg in weight. Yet, many of these birds are adults.

When discussing the use of 1080, the DoC use sentences like “overwhelmingly successful”, “very effective”, “rapid 

knockdown” to justify their poisoning campaigns.
“It’s the best tool we have for managing pests, and keeping predators at bay.” At least that’s what we’re lead to believe by The Department of Conservation, the PCE, and Forest and Bird.

But what’s really killing the birds? Surely not predators, going by what we’re told about the effectiveness of 1080 at eliminating them. If it is predators, it would also be reasonable to say that the use of 1080 poison clearly isn’t working. Surprisingly, given so much poison has been dropped across the forest, not a single kiwi from the 89 deaths has been tested for 1080 poison residues.

DoC say that the time-frames for the poison drops don’t line up with the likelihood that 1080 could be a cause of death. Given the amount of poison dropped in the forest over the last 35 years, all endemic species found dead within the poisoned boundaries should be tested for poison residues, simply to eliminate toxins as a cause of death. Surely?

More concerning is the fact that in the last 15 years, with tens of millions of hectares of habitat being poisoned, only 5 kiwi across all of New Zealand have been tested for 1080 poison residues. It should be noted that kiwi are known to eat 1080 cereal bait, and 1080 residues have been detected in kiwi droppings.

On top of the 7 poisoned kea three weeks ago, the 3 poisoned kaka earlier in the year, the loss of 11 kiwi at Mt Bruce, 21 ruru in the Waitutu, the poisoned fernbirds, robins, tomtits and others, it is becoming more clear that the experiments with 1080 poison across our forests, aren’t working.

After 35 years of poisoning campaigns, and desperately trying, there still isn’t a single, credible scientific research paper that demonstrates a net population benefit to any native species through the use of aerially applied 1080 poison. Not one! And yet the drops continue.

Responsible, ground control methods do work. 50,000 hectares of the northern Te Urewera National Park is managed by DoC, trappers and volunteers. No aerial 1080 poison is used. We need to encourage, and replicate these methods, and eliminate the future use of aerially applied poisons.

On the 5th October DoC replied with a rebuttal to the claims of Clyde Graf Read the entire article here. 

Another NZ ecologist firmly beleives the near extinction of their Kea and Rock Wren is due to the continued use of 1080. 

From Carol Sawyer

The first Department of Conservation radio-tagging trial with Kea during an aerial 1080 poisoning operation was in 2008. Of the 17 monitored Kea at Franz Josef, 7 died of 1080 poisoning. (40% mortality)

DoC’s excuse at the time “may have been because juvenile Kea in the area had a habit of investigating “human-type” junk foods. .” (ODT 2/08/08)

In 2008 The Dominion Post obtained a draft internal report by DOC after the 7 deaths. The report says “aerial 1080 may well be a significant threat to the Kea population” with some drops “probably devastating”…

DoC’s Dr. Josh Kemp said “The Franz Josef Kea deaths had “shocked and stunned” DOC” (Stuff 28/01/09)

But Kea deaths from 1080 poison have been proven for over 52 years.

In 1964 Protection Forest workers picked up 4 dead Kea and 8 dead seagulls after a single 1080 drop. The birds tested positive for 1080 poisoning. (M.H.Douglas: Control of Tahr: Evaluation of a Poisoning Technique July 1966).

To find 12 large poisoned birds on foot would indicate the death rate must have been devastating for all the bird species in the area. DoC like to blame the decline in Kea numbers on early bounties. “ Kea had numbered in the hundreds of thousands but were devastated when a bounty was paid to kill them because of concerns they attacked stock.” (Press 29/07/08)

In 2011, DoC poisoned 7 out of 11 Kea at North Okarito ( 60% mortality). DoC’s excuse this time “It seemed likely the more open nature of the North Okarito forest was a factor, Mr Costello said” (ODT 12/09/11)

DoC then went on in 2013 to kill 5 radio-tagged Kea at Arthur’s Pass, DoC’s excuse this time “the repellent was less than the target concentration”( Stuff 21/08/13)

If such inane, puerile excuses were put forward by CYPS or the Police next time a vulnerable child is brutally killed, the media and politicians alike would take the offending officials to task. DoC appear immune from such scrutiny.

In 1999 DoC’s Dr’s Elliot and Kemp said “Kea nests appear to be relatively immune to predation from introduced mammals…Our results agree with a previous study of Kea nesting at Arthur’s Pass, where no evidence of significant nest predation was found (Jackson 1963).” (G Elliot & J Kemp 1999)

Now DoC claim “The Kea deaths are unfortunate but without protection most Kea chicks are killed by stoats. (Westport News 26/01/15)

So what has changed, DoC’s inept monitoring of nests since 2000 would appear to be resulting in further Kea predation and nest abandonment.

Read more on these topics here. 

 

 

 

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