Wednesday, 29 January 2014

DOC Ups the Ante with 1080 in 2014

The New Zealand Department of Conservation (DOC) has just announced plans to increase their aerial drops of 1080 poison in forest areas to cover some 12% of public conservation land in New Zealand, up from about 5%. Calling the program “The Battle for Our Birds,” they claim it is in response to an anticipated “masting” in beech forests this year which they say will cause an increase in rodent and predator numbers.

I’m no fan of the use of 1080 poison. I’ve written about the use of this nasty chemical in previous posts. My very first blog post, Of possums and a serendipitous juxtaposition tackled this topic, and subsequently I wrote 1080 (just what is this stuff anyway?), Planned 1080 aerial drop inWellington’s back yard, and 1080 Update along with a couple of other related posts like Oh, Deer.
Over the past year I’ve been a bit quieter about this topic, and entertained hopes that with growing awareness of the nastiness of 1080—a toxic-to-all-oxygen-breathing-species poison banned in all but 4 or 5 countries—perhaps with time its use would be diminished. Alas, this seems not to be.  Ok, so where are we now?

Two years ago, it was a proclaimed war against the possum (see my post Villain or Victim?) that was used to fuel the public’s acceptance of aerial 1080 poisoning. Now the possum hardly gets a mention as the campaign swings into action to tackle rats and stoats. This is the logic DOC is feeding us: 

It’s called a “mast” when trees or plants have a year when they produce an unusual abundance of seeds, a common cyclical phenomenon in some plant species. It is anticipated that beech trees in New Zealand’s forests are likely to mast this year. Because of the unusually abundant food supply, it is argued that rats and mice in the forest will flourish, and since stoats eat rats and mice, they will flourish. When the seed supply runs out, there won’t be enough rats and mice to feed the stoats so they, along with hungry rats, will prey on birds, and New Zealand’s native birds will be at risk. DOC’s solution is to drop more than twice as much 1080 poison on the forests as they usually do. The rats and mice will eat the poison and die. The stoats will eat the poisoned rats and mice and die. The birds will be safe.

According to Conservation Minister Nick Smith, quoted in the article in the DomPost newspaper  this morning, rats and stoats and possums eat 25 million native birds every year. Now I cannot imagine—even when I put on my super-duper jet-propelled hat of  imagination—how they could know this. Where in the world does a number like this come from?

Kea with 1080 pellet
That aside, 1080 is not species- or mammalian-specific in its effects. Originally developed as an insecticide, it is toxic to any creature that depends upon oxygen for survival, and death by 1080 is not pretty. See the Graf Boys’ must-view award-winning doco Poisoning Paradise.

On the west coast, endangered Kea killed after 1080 drops are well documented—they love the bait. Robins and tomtits are also hit by drops. So are wild deer and pigs (which DOC consider pest species even if hunters don’t agree). There is rarely much publicity about dogs and farm animals dying from 1080 poison, but the stories abound when you start searching the internet. This stuff is really, really nasty.

This map (from the DOC website) shows proposed drop areas, along with the species they claim they are “saving”. Wake up, New Zealand. They’re poisoning our world.

New Zealand wants the world to think we’re “Clean, Green 100% Pure New Zealand.” As the Tui beer billboards suggest...”Yeah, right!” New Zealand (before this proposed more-than-doubling-of-usage) uses 85% of the world’s production of 1080 poison, on a land mass about the size of the US state of Oregon. We drop death from the air in tasty cereal and carrot pellets on our forests. It’s nasty, it’s toxic, and it affects the whole forest ecosystem. When will this madness end?

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