Tag Archives: pest control

A Look at New Zealand’s Conservation Science (Dr Jo Pollard)

From CORANZ

by Dr Jo Pollard (BSc (Hons), PhD)

Supporters of NZ’s conservation by aerial poisoning have commonly defended their position with the statement “Look at the science.”

Most of the published science on conservation in NZ is accessed readily, appearing in the NZ Journal of Ecology (NZJE). A browse through the issues from the last couple of years reveals glimmers of hope for ecological management, plus some not so nice things. The following is a quick run through.

Freshest news from Landcare is the observation that ship rats climb up and carefully drink nectar from mountain flax flowers; their furry faces probably transferring pollen between flowers (Donald & Dhami, 2022). 

Landcare is now thinking rats might compete for nectar and pollinate “on a widespread and under-appreciated scale.” 

Also from Landcare is “Do mice matter?” (Watts et al., 2022). It concludes they do.

When other mammals were fenced out of a reserve, mouse numbers rose and apparently reduced numbers of wētā, caterpillars and other invertebrates, potentially having “catastrophic” effects. Then when the researchers got rid of the mice, unexpected things were noted: non-native earthworms seemed to move into the depleted ground faster than native earthworms, and an extremely high number of beetles appeared in one area.

Stoats and Rats

Studies of alpine-dwelling stoats by researchers from several organisations (McAulay et al., 2020; 2021) supported previous findings that rats are stoats’ preferred prey. Fifty-five stoats were caught in traps laid above the tree line in Fiordland, Mt Aspiring and Nelson Lakes national parks. Stomach contents and stoat tissues were analysed to find out what they had been eating. 

At the Fiordland and Mt Aspiring sites the stoats were living on small mammals (e.g. rats), topped up with insects and plant material. There was no bird material in their stomachs, and it was estimated that long-term, small birds made up less than 2% of the diet. In contrast at Nelson Lakes (where there were no rats) stomachs contained small birds (estimated as 15 -26% of the long term diet) and also skinks (19-57%). 

The authors warned that when and where ship rat numbers are low, stoats are more likely to eat threatened species. Also that individual stoats have their own feeding habits, so generalisations cannot be made from narrow observations.

On islands where introduced mammals have been eliminated, things have turned out badly for several bird species. Miskelly et al. (2021) (from Te Papa Museum and the Department of Conservation (DoC)) studied birds on 38 Fiordland islands, where Norway rats or stoats were removed several decades ago. Seven islands left unmanaged provided an experimental control. In the absence of rats or stoats, robins have flourished, seemingly aggressively ousting other species, including grey warbler, silvereye and tomtits. 

“Robins flourished—ousting other species”

The authors warned that killing off predators to achieve “restoration” can cause declines and disappearances of native bird species.  So far then, it seems much is being learnt about ecology that challenges NZ’s Predator Free conservation goal to wipe out mustelids, rats and possums (Predator Free, 2022). 

Many Questions

There are many questions: how to deal with increasing mice, once their predators have been killed off; how do our long-naturalised mammals fit into current ecology; what about the results from the Fiordland islands, where it appears that taking away the introduced predators reduced the diversity of birds? 

Also challenged within these first few papers is DoC’s insistence on aerial poisoning of alpine zones, to “protect” rock wren and kea from stoats. The stoats are likely to not be eating any birds! Plus the poison is toxic to birds and a very broad range of other creatures. It is not reliable in controlling stoats which shift to eating birds if their rat prey is gone. So the alpine animals may suffer a double-whammy: poison, then hungry stoats. DoC’s idea that stoats must be killing off bird species comes from hunted down, marked and monitored nests. But the monitoring itself makes the nests prone to desertion and predation. 

Contributions from DoC to the latest NZJEs include an addition to a large pile of studies on nesting and survival of rare birds wearing radio telemetry gear (Steffens et al., 2022). This gear, ironically, makes birds much less likely to nest, markedly increases energy expenditure and causes fatalities.  

Something seems amiss in the animal ethics screening of DoC experiments. 

Attempts to improve monitoring appeared in the University of Otago’s study on robins, whose nests were observed from a distance to avoid disturbing them (van Heezik et al., 2020), and trials by various researchers on remote monitoring of kiwi, using their calls (Jahn et al., 2022; Ellis & Marsland, 2022). The latter authors had animal welfare and other concerns about the transmitters DoC routinely uses on kiwis’ legs. 

As with DoC, a lack of ethical oversight was apparent in a study from Zero Invasive Predators (ZIP). Nichols et al. (2022) killed 20 rats by feeding them 1080-poisoned food, to make bait for stoats. Since, there has been a change: now they humanely kill their rodents then make them poisonous by injecting them with 1080.

Many articles concerned aerial poisoning using 1080 (sodium monofluoroacetate).

Bomans et al. (2021) from Victoria University monitored bird calls before and after aerial poisoning operations realising however that calls did not reflect bird numbers, because survivors might call frequently, e.g. for mates. Dilks et al. (2021) (from DoC and Lincoln University) used trail cameras, baited with rabbit meat and an egg, to record animals before (spring) and after (summer) an aerial poison operation. With no experimental control they could not conclude much, except that all common small mammals were seen far less afterwards. Morriss et al. (2021) (mainly Landcare people) “gathered observations” on deer mortality rates after aerial poisoning, which were highly variable and it was concluded formal research was needed.

Rats Rebound

Two studies demonstrated the classic rat population response to aerial 1080 poisoning, with numbers rebounding within several months and reaching higher levels than before poisoning began (Bell et al., 2021 (mainly people from DoC); van Heezik et al., 2020 (mainly from Otago University)). To gain better control, Nichols et al. (2021) from ZIP aerially poisoned twice a few months apart, spreading baits at extra high density, and managed to nearly get rid of all rats, stoats and possums. Monitoring of any other creatures’ survival was only “incidental”; a grave omission since the authors propose this super-poisoning might become more common as NZ strives to become Predator Free. 

Rats are especially well equipped, through their lifestyle and physiology, to withstand a 1080 poison war.

An oncoming weapon for beating nature is genetic modification, and there’s no shortage of interested parties lining up.  Inwood et al. (2020) are people from Scion, Landcare, the Environmental Protection Agency and four universities wanting to work on topics such as gene editing to make rats infertile. That idea had been put to bed by a NZ Royal Society review (Dearden et al., 2017) as too dangerous, because modified rats might escape to overseas ecosystems where rats were actually important!

Habitat Importance

Encouragingly, Walker et al. (2021a; 2021b) from Landcare stressed the need to preserve habitat, stating its loss and modification “is a principal, ongoing cause of indigenous biodiversity decline.” Echoing this was Landcare’s study on kereru, for which forest seemed to be a limiting factor (Carpenter et al., 2021). 

Long ago, ecologist Dr Carolyn King pointed out “conservation of species is conservation of habitats”. 

How good things might have been if DoC’s head scientist Graeme Elliott had listened to Dr King and focussed his career on the observation that mohua, needing tall forest trees on valley floors, were suffering from habitat loss. Instead, stoats were blamed for the mohua’s decline, leading to rampant stoat trapping, followed by rats getting out of control and eating the mohua, then the onset of aerial poisoning to quell rats.

Perhaps the Predator Free movement might yet face up to ecology. 

Unfortunately, as restated in the NZJE (McGlone et al., 2020) there is a history of dysfunction whereby conservation management in NZ has departed from science. 

The science indicates a need for careful studies and saving habitat, rather than mindless interference and indiscriminate poisoning.

Footnote: A fully referenced copy of this article is available at this link.

Dr Jo Pollard

Header Photo: pixabay.com
Others: supplied

Six kea, half of a Conservation Trust study, have died following an aerial 1080 drop in Otago

Further update on this as at March 3rd: Probably more than 6 kea have died

The said kea will be undergoing post mortems.  We wait with baited breath for the outcome, and can likely be sure that they, like the Sth Is North Beach rats, weren’t poisoned by 1080 it being mere coincidence their demise (like the North Beach rats & other various items of marine life) just happened to follow an aerial drop of the deadly Class 1A Ecotoxin. After all 1080 is ‘not very harmful to humans’ even NZ children are taught at school, and let’s remember it only targets pests like stoats, rats and possums. Well, so we are told. And in this case well they say it could be the public’s fault for feeding them in the first place. Doesn’t make sense that does it? If only pests are targeted, then it’s not working.  They can’t have it both ways. EWR

From Stuff

Kea part of Conservation Trust study group found dead near Wānaka

‘Six kea have died following an aerial 1080 predator control operation in Otago.

The Department of Conservation (DOC) is awaiting autopsy results to determine the cause of the deaths in the Matukituki Valley near Wānaka.

The birds were among 12 kea being monitored by the Kea Conservation Trust for a study on the impact of predators.

The remaining six birds have been confirmed alive since the DOC operation on February 11.

Trust chairwoman Tamsin Orr-Walker said the team was devastated.

There was always a risk during a 1080 drop that birds would pick up the bait, but she was not aware of any previous incidents where such a large number were affected.


RELATED: A whole flock numbering hundreds of Kea wiped out in one 1080 drop – a farmer speaks out


DOC threats director Amber Bill said there was a concern the tracked kea may have been exposed to human food around the tramping huts in the valley, potentially making them more vulnerable to picking up 1080 cereal baits.

“While we are confident that predator control operations benefit kea populations at large, it’s upsetting to lose six birds.”

The 1080 drop followed the biggest forest mast in 40 years, which fuelled rodent plagues and created a spike in stoat numbers that posed a serious threat to ground-nesting kea and other native wildlife, she said.

Previous research found kea had increased survival and nesting success when 1080 was used to control rats and stoats.

While the risk of 1080 to kea in remote areas was low, it increased with birds that had leaned to scavenge for human food.


RELATED: A NZ Landcare scientist estimates the likely death toll from an Otago 1080 drop in 2002 to be around 10,000 birds


“Our work to mitigate the risk to kea from 1080 is based on extensive research and the results of 222 monitored kea through 19 aerial 1080 operations at 12 South Island sites,” Bill said.

DOC was looking to launch a campaign discouraging people from feeding kea and interaction that could lead to scrounging behaviour.

Results of the autopsy and toxicology testing on the dead birds are expected later this week.

Orr-Walker asked that people in the area report any kea sightings over the next few months on the kea database website, especially kea that have leg bands.

This would enable the trust to confirm status of their project birds.

SEE SOURCE FOR VIDEOS


RELATED:

KEA DEATHS IN NZ


 

Image by skeeze from Pixabay

 

Post 1080-drop water monitoring: a former Greens MP says there is gross misrepresentation around the official figures presented by DoC

Former Greens MP Steffan Browning, interviewed recently by Raglan Community Radio, discusses his preference for exploring alternative methods in culling pests. He also believes the information supplied to Eugenie Sage regarding the frequency of finding 1080 in water samples is at odds with independent testing. Official figures say 1080 is detected only 3% of the time however, from the calculations of an independent scientist that incidence is closer to 60%. The 3% figure supplied to OSPRI, Forest & Bird and so on, is in Browning’s opinion inaccurate & a gross misrepresentation. To go straight to the water sampling discussion go to 12 minutes.

And by the way, in addition to saying there are other Green MPs who are pro alternatives to 1080, he mentions former Green Party Co-Leader Rod Donald’s preference for the trapping alternative, illustrated by the Possum covering he had for his Parliamentary seat. What a shame their current Party stance is not so green on this topic.

https://archive.org/details/SteffanBrowning1080181003?fbclid=IwAR2CAV2-1WmoaqxydUpkde2DnF2_yMABMt4rnYBANpfm8Hgt46GhQNaplBI#reviews

 

Below is an excerpt from 1080’s product information warning about dropping baits in water, however the government has changed the rules so that they can drop it into waterways without a resource consent. The point of this news item is the way tests are carried out to determine poison levels, however, it is also pertinent to remember the manufacturer’s warning regarding water sources & 1080 risks:

Copy of Untitled

 

 

Why aerial 1080 is more than a science debate (Stuff)

This is from Stuff. Surprizingly. Instead of the usual mainstream ‘bona fide justification for poisoning everything and saving our native birds’ (not) it actually acknowledges the information that campaigners for clean water and for refraining from poisoning the entire ecocide have been advocating for decades. Perhaps they’re now getting too loud to ignore.


Damon Rusden has restated the scientific case for continued use of aerial 1080 to control pests, but his argument fails to address the social side of the debate.

Underpinning the continued reliance on aerial 1080 lies the ambitious goal of turning back the clock – of eliminating every single introduced rodent, mustelid and marsupial with the aim of making New Zealand “predator free”. While there is virtually unanimous agreement that our native flora and fauna deserve protection, the feasibility and costs of returning the country to a pre-European state are often overlooked.

10080 on the Waitaha riverbed. The debate around the poison is more than the sum of all scientific papers on the topic. It is as much a social issue as it is a scientific one.
EMMA RICHARDSON
10080 on the Waitaha riverbed. The debate around the poison is more than the sum of all scientific papers on the topic. It is as much a social issue as it is a scientific one.

In fact, the logic behind being “predator free” requires closer examination. Is this nostalgic vision of returning the country “to what it once was” really what we need and want? Is it possible, and at what cost? If we are going to try to turn back the clock on introduced species, there needs to be consensus on how far back we want to go, and the methods of doing so need to be evaluated in more than just scientific terms.

Taking a big picture view on introduced animals may mean allocating some areas as predator free focus points, while other areas are managed with different outcomes in mind. Introduced species do have their benefits – possums yield fur, for example, and this is a valued resource on many levels. Accepting that possums are part of our national ecosystem and managing them accordingly, might therefore be a better option in some areas.

The ‘where’ and ‘why’ of 1080 also needs careful consideration. Rusden asserts that 1080 is dropped “in areas which are inaccessible by foot”. This might have been true once, but it is far from the truth today. On the West Coast, aerial 1080 is being applied to areas that are easily accessible on foot, with well-established hut and track networks.

The recent Karnbach operation is a case in point, with aerial 1080 placed in the main Waitaha riverbed and on the surrounding tracks. The supposed precision of aerial application resulted in baits submerged in the river itself. This operation, along with many others in the region, was conducted by Ospri as part of the TBFreeNZ program.

These operations have nothing to do with saving native birds or forests. Any benefits to native species are an unintended consequence of protecting the farming industry. The two goals should not be confused, or seen as one and the same.

Rusden goes on to claim that “much of the substance of the anger at 1080 seems to draw from the anti-establishment well”. In fact, there is more than anti-government sentiment at play here. There are sound ethical and animal welfare concerns surrounding 1080 use. What Rusden also fails to mention, is that the majority of aerial 1080 proponents do not live in the areas where it is being dropped.

A lot of the anger and resentment stems from a feeling of absolute powerlessness and lack of meaningful engagement with what is happening in one’s backyard. People who live in a place are often deeply passionate about it in a wholly different way to someone who comes to visit once a year. While the visitor may prize the area for its chortling flocks of tui, the family down the road obtain their water, and possibly their food, from the same block of bush. There is a fundamental difference in perspective. When the helicopters laden with poison buzz over your backyard your water supply, meat safe and recreation ground are all potential targets.

The science may be clear, but it doesn’t take into account the social, cultural or resource value associated with our ecosystems.  For those who live in these areas, the anger at this top-down approach is heartfelt and understandable. Simply writing it off as emotion or anti-government sentiment is not helpful.

Economic consequences are another consideration. The current regime of aerial 1080 drops offers little or no economic return to local communities. It would be heartening if locals were approached ahead of any drop, to identify areas that would be feasible trapping targets. Employment is a real concern in areas such as the West Coast, particularly when many of the traditional industries are being shut down. Local residents should be given the priority when it comes to pest control work.

The debate around 1080 is more than the sum of all scientific papers on the topic. It is as much a social issue as it is a scientific one. There are cultural and economic aspects that need to be considered, alongside the goal of bringing back the birds and restoring the forests.

Everyone is keen to see flourishing ecosystems, but people must remain part of that picture.

Stuff

https://www.stuff.co.nz/environment/107722463/why-aerial-1080-is-more-than-a-science-debate

Photo: please advise if the excellent header image is yours & would like to be credited, or you would like me to remove it.


NOTE ON COMMENTING:

If you are pro poisoning of the environment or anything else, EnvirowatchRangitikei is not the place to espouse your opinions. Mainstream would be the place to air those. This is a venue for sharing the independent science you won’t of course find there.

In 2007 an International Animal Welfare Journal published a RSPCA paper by Dr M Sherley deeming that: “1080 IS NOT A HUMANE POISON”

Note: you can hear Dr Miranda Sherley speak in the GrafBoys’ doco “Poisoning Paradise“. There are graphic descriptions and footage of the agony 1080’d animals go through. A veterinarian has commented that dying from 1080 poison is like two days of slow electrocution. 


 

RSPCA MEDIA RELEASE 2007

We can no longer kid ourselves that 1080 is an acceptable option; we urgently need to focus efforts on finding ways to make 1080 more humane, or otherwise finding more humane ways to control pest animals … Dr M Sherley

A new report into the use of sodium fluroacetate (or 1080) in Australia has found it is an
inhumane poison, and has called for urgent research into improving the humaneness of
vertebrate pest control methods in this country.
The report, written by RSPCA Australia’s Dr Miranda Sherley, has been published in the current edition of the highly respected Animal Welfare journal from the UK-based Universities Federation for Animal Welfare.
Dr Sherley said despite its widespread use, the animal welfare implications of 1080 baiting have received little attention. There has been ongoing research into the ecological impacts of using 1080 as well as a high level of public concern regarding the effects of the poison on non-target animals, including pets or working dogs that might accidentally pick up the baits, as well as native wildlife, said Dr Sherley.
However, we were concerned to further investigate what level of pain and suffering was caused by 1080 on any vertebrate animal, including the target animals  which, we should remember, are also very much able to experience pain and suffering and deserve no less compassion in the way we deal with them, she said.
Dr Sherley said a range of criteria ñ including studying how the poison works, speed of death, behaviour of affected animals and long-term effects on survivors – were used to scientifically assess how humane the use of 1080 is as a method of pest control.
Human cases of 1080 poisoning are also helpful in understanding the effects on other animals: while conscious, people report feeling pain and distress, and through detailed hospital records we are also able to better track their recovery and any longer term effects, she said. Based on the evidence available, our conclusion is that animals affected by 1080 do not die a quick and humane death; rather, they suffer a range of potentially painful and distressing symptoms, often over a period of hours,î said Dr Sherley.
We can no longer kid ourselves that 1080 is an acceptable option; we urgently need to focus efforts on finding ways to make 1080 more humane, or otherwise finding more humane ways to control pest animals.

READ MORE

http://www.predatordefense.org/docs/1080_article_RSPCA_Media_Release_11-15-07.pdf?ID=131#

Images below are taken from Youtuber Torvald Nagelhjelm‘s coverage of a Taupo 1080 drop in 2016.

deer taupo

deer taupo 3

deer taupo 2

Shocking revelations on 1080 from a former Horizons employee

Carol Sawyer

OLD 1080 STOCK SOLUTION, DDT, CHEMICALS GO OFF IN A SHIP TO FRANCE?!

When it’s not being sprayed round the Palmerston North Landfill, that is. What happens if the ship sinks?!

George Robinson has worked in the pest control industry all his life. When he left the Manawatu/Wanganui (Horizons) Regional Council he had a gagging order put on him, but the time period is now up.

This is the story he told me, and I first posted it in January, 2017 :

They used to use (up to 2008-2009 that he knows of) 20% 1080 stock solution and dilute it to a field solution to put it on the green-dyed carrots, for rabbits. He said they had back packs and had it running down their arms, legs, backs….. They used to find dead birds everywhere, blackbirds especially. They were told it all dissolved in water and broke down.

They were sent to conferences run by NZ Pest Management Officers’ Institute. George says “I believe it was the Food Safety Authority that policed the regulations then”. He remembers one where Charles Eason (now CEO of the Cawthron Institute, but formerly senior manager with Landcare Research and a Professor at Lincoln University) spoke and told them “three pisses and the 1080 is gone from your system”.

They had a big holding tank and the stock solution could be held for up to 7 or 8 years before it was no good, but a man from a waste removal transport company would come along and pump out the holding tank. He would take it down to the Palmerston North landfill and spread it all over the ground, driving round in a circle. George says this guy was a straight-up sort of chap who was amazed that he was given permission to do it.

There was a facility in France where some of the stuff collected went – old farm chemicals such as DDT, etc. It goes on a ship which “must be a very toxic shipload”, George said. (I have been told recently that that facility in France is no longer used… I’m not sure where it goes now – Note 29 July, 2018).

He said that at present, Horizons are using Brodificoum on pastureland amongst stock, for possum control. He said it has killed stock but that the worst thing is that it accumulates in the liver and remains in the sheeps’ livers for 36 months. He said Horizons are using the High Strength version.

He himself has a CSL (Controlled Substance Licence).

He says Horizons must be one of the biggest users of Brodificoum. He rang Affco to see if they tested and they said they did random testing, and the Ministry of Primary Industries also assured him they did random testing. He said to them ” Why don’t you test the stock from the paddocks where you use Brodificoum?” but they didn’t want to know!

He said the Ministry of Health used to police the regulations but now that duty has gone to the Ministry of Primary Industries.

He said Horizons have a whole lot of operations, all doing the same thing – killing rats and possums. He said they will be killing birds as well and that the sheep and other livestock “hoover it up”. He said the bait stations are 1.8 metres off the ground, but the deer and cattle can reach them, and the possums are messy eaters and get it all over the ground, so the sheep can get it too.

George left Horizons because he was arguing with them about their 10 year plan for Brodifacoum pest control, and says he was forced out because he was against it.

He said the Greater Wellington Council is using Brodifacoum too. They used it on Tawaiti Station (a safari hunting operation on the East Coast). It killed a few deer and as they were going to sell some, they thought they had better test them for Brodifacoum. They found so much Brodifacoum in them that they shot around 70 deer and burnt the carcasses!

Note the photo is not George Robinson.