Thursday, 27 October 2011

1080

Okay, okay, I know. If you’ve read my previous posts (Of Possums,  Villain or Victim, and Oh, Deer), you’re probably thinking, “This woman’s on a mission. I wonder if she ever thinks about anything else besides 1080 and dead animals?” Well, yes I do. But one more post on this theme, and then I’ll move on (for a while anyway).

Last night I watched the documentary “Poisoning Paradise: Ecocide New Zealand” put out by the Graf Boys a couple of years ago. I don’t think it’s been run on NZ television—although it should be. (Be warned: the start seems cheesy, like an old come-to-New Zealand tourist advert. Don't flick off and say "nah" before the film really starts. Also, the content is disturbing.)



So...here are some facts about 1080:

1080 is sodium monofluoroacetate, a highly toxic poison originally invented in 1896 in Belgium[i] and first patented in 1927 in the U.S. as an insecticide. It is so nasty that most countries have since banned its use (the US classifies it as a “terrorist weapon”[ii]), but New Zealand’s Animal Health Board and Department of Conservation (both government departments) continue to use around 85% of the world’s production of 1080, prepared into around 2,000,000 kgs of laced carrot and cereal/grain bait[iii] per year, much of it distributed via aerial drops over New Zealand’s forests and woodlands as part of an ongoing possum eradication programme. According to Wikipedia, the remaining 15% or so of world production is used by Australia, the U.S. (used only as an impregnated collar on livestock to protect them from coyote predation in some areas[iv], and it is banned in most states), Mexico, Japan and Israel. If you’re in America and reading this, keep in mind that the whole of New Zealand is about the same size as the state of Oregon.

1080 is particularly toxic for mammals and insects; the speed of death depends upon metabolism, but it is slow (up to a couple of days) and clearly an excruciating death by any standards. (See the above doco trailer for some indication, but the actual documentary just made me feel sick, watching animals writhe and spasm in agony.) Only the tiniest amount is deadly, just 0.06 mg/kg for a dog,  0.8 mg/kg for a possum, or 8 mg/kg for a weka[v]. There is no antidote.

There is a myth in New Zealand that the use of 1080 is good for the NZ native bird population, as they are not “targeted”. However, bird loss following aerial drops is significant with several key species including the kea, New Zealand’s cheeky mountain parrot. After one West Coast 1080 drop, 7 of 17 radio-tagged kea were found dead, a 40% kill rate of a protected species. Weka, brown opportunistic ground-dwellers about the size of a chicken, are often found feeding on the carcasses of 1080-poisoned animals and later succumbing to secondary poisoning. Basically, any bird that will be enticed by a cereal/grain bait or bit of carrot, or that feeds off carrion or insects, is susceptible.

Kill of non-targeted mammalian species is also significant. Farmers resident near forest blocks can lose stock if their cattle, sheep, goats or deer consume wayward 1080 pellets or drink runoff water that has been contaminated with 1080. Dogs are particularly susceptible to the poison, and a gnawed on 1080-kill possum equals death for any hapless farm dog or family pet inclined to have a chew.

Lastly, runoff from 1080-treated land can end up in our water supply with contamination not only from the baits but also from dead animals. 1080 poison promoters maintain the substance breaks down quickly in water to become harmless by-products. Anti-1080 activists report little breakdown in cold weather, however, so pellets from a winter drop may linger for months in stream areas if not consumed by animals. Carcass breakdown is also slow because the usual suspects (worms, insects, maggots) which feed on the carcass are also killed.

You can tell this stuff riles me up. I am not fond of killing animals in the first place—I’m the sort that catches spiders and puts them outside, and rescues mice from the cat—but I do accept that for various reasons we do kill animals and our society condones that, and I am a part of that society. However, the wanton broadcast of a toxic poison onto our landscape, a poison that causes indiscriminate and excruciatingly slow and painful death for all manner of living things, from the smallest mites to tomtits, dogs and deer in the name of “conservation” and “protection” makes me want to hiss and spit. We are all one, this is our planet and we share it with all of God’s creatures. We are all part of a single eco-system, and the debasement of that eco-system simply lays a self-inflicted curse upon ourselves and our world. How dumb is that?


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