1080

February 5th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Scientists are supporting the Government’s plan to use targeted drops to protect native birds from an expected rat and stoat plague.

An abundance of beech seed this year is expected to cause a population explosion among stoats and rats in forests.

Under the “Battle for Our Birds” predator control programme, announced by Conservation Minister Dr Nick Smith last week, the Department of Conservation will treat up to an extra 500,000 hectares of conservation land with aerial 1080 application this year and next, should predator numbers increase.

The additional 1080 drop will increase the area of public conservation land treated for pests from 5 per cent to 12. The work is budgeted to cost $21 million over the next five years. DOC’s annual budget is $335m.

Landcare Research scientist Dr Andrea Byrom, who leads the invasive weeds, pests and diseases portfolio, said an increase of predation on native species was not the only effect of increases in stoat and rat populations.

“There is also the indirect impact of competition: the predators will chomp their way through the seeds, fruits and invertebrates that are food for native birds and lizards.”

University of Canterbury mathematician Associate Professor Alex James, who was involved in research modelling of high beech seed years, said “the planned 1080 drops are the best way to manage the predator outbreak”.

Without predators, native birds would flourish on the beech seed, she said.

Ecotourism operator and Forest & Bird ambassador Dr Gerry McSweeney last year called for DOC to use more of its money to increase application of 1080 across the conservation estate.

McSweeney said he was pleased to see the department actively seeking to increase 1080 use. “It’s a really exciting redirection of the department back to its basic function, which is to look after the land that it holds in trust for us.

“We’re seeing a recognition that this is the only really effective tool we’ve got in the tool box for protecting and restoring big areas of wild New Zealand.”

Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Dr Jan Wright released a report in 2011 concluding that 1080 use should not only continue, but increase.

In response to last week’s announcement, Wright said she was “delighted” by DOC’s response to the predator threat.

“1080 is the only tool we have to control the plagues of rats and stoats,” she said.

I understand lots of people don’t like 1080. They say there has to be a better way of fighting predators that destroy our native birds. However they never can explain what better way exists.
Without 1080 the rat, possum and stoat populations would explode and native birds especially would get killed in even larger numbers during mating season. Some species could be wiped out.
DOC says:

1080 is readily soluble and dilutes quickly in water to low concentrations. Natural processes will break 1080 down in water to non-toxic by-products. 

More than 500 water samples have been taken after 1080 operations in the last five years. 1080 residues have never been recorded in public drinking water supplies. 

They also deal with the fact that some non predators can be affected:

Studies also show that the benefits of protecting breeding birds and their nests from predators like rats, stoats and possums strongly outweigh the low rate of mortality recorded for these species. 

For example, monitoring on the West Coast shows kea nests in areas protected by 1080 produce up to four times as many chicks as nests in unprotected areas. The population benefits of this increased breeding success offsets the mortality rate of about 12% found among kea tracked through 1080 operations. 

Federated Farmers also support its use in fighting TB:

1080 is also vital to the control of bovine tuberculosis (TB) – a serious agricultural disease spread by possums. In many areas of the country, possums are responsible for over 70 per cent of new herd infections. The density of infected possum populations has to be knocked down to just one or two animals per 10 hectares to stop the disease cycle – in many cases, using aerial 1080 is the most effective and cost efficient way to do this.

They also deal with the health risk to humans:

No trace of 1080 has ever been found in public drinking water. Even if the water supply did get contaminated, a 60 kg person would need to drink 60,000 litres of water containing two parts per billion of 1080 (the maximum level set by the MOH), in one sitting, to absorb a fatal dose.

I think it is fair to say that no one will even come close.

The last word goes to the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment:

“It is not perfect, but given how controversial it remains, I for one expected that it would not be as effective and safe as it is”

If someone invents a more reliable, safer and effective method of possum, stoat and rat control – then I’m all for it. But until that happens, what is the alternative?

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38 Responses to “1080”

  1. gravedodger (1,426 comments) says:

    None so blind as they who will not see.

    Just as with the chorus on Green Jobs being non existent in debate, those who oppose 1080, when challenged will mumble about the unemployed trapping when the truth is they dont get out of bed till an urge drives them why in all that is holy would they go out trapping.

    Not perfect but the best option by miles or kilometers.

    At now 12% of the Doc estate, up from 5%, there are still gazillions of hectares untreated.

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  2. dubya (200 comments) says:

    Interestingly, it always seems to be the politician who appears to be wearing a culled rodent upon his head, that calls for 1080 to be banned…

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  3. Oskar (33 comments) says:

    In his science column this week in the DomPost Bob Brockie also wrote about 1080.
    One para was:

    “It has often been suggested that the unemployed be set to work controlling possums. This has been tried in several places but the exercise has failed because the unemployed will not get out of bed at 6am to go round the trap or poison lines, because they cannot work unsupervised in the remote bush, will not spend time away from home nor can they be trusted with poisons, guns or Government vehicles”.

    While 1080 may not be be every ones ideal solution it is certainly better than doing nothing and watching our native flora and fauna vanish forever.

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  4. Psycho Milt (1,974 comments) says:

    This is another of those pretty straightforward ones. On the one side, we have pretty much all the scientists and the people competent to review the evidence and reach a conclusion based on it. On the other side, we have a bunch of people with little knowledge of the subject but very strong opinions on it. How hard is it for a cabinet Minister to look at that and say “Yeah, I think I’m gonna go with what the science guys are saying?”

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  5. nickb (3,629 comments) says:

    Penny incoming 3…2…1…

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  6. Pete George (21,804 comments) says:

    dubya – his current approach is to push for more research into alternatives so 1080 can be phased out. Dropping heaps of poison is far from ideal – while it partially controls pests it has adverse effects on other bird and animal life.

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  7. Colville (1,771 comments) says:

    Hunters hate 1080 (the blue rain of death) coz it kills deer. DOC can use deer repelent on the baits but it costs more.

    Anyone who thinks that possums can be controlled in the bush with traps has never been into the bush. There are 100,s of sq kms that even deer hunters dont go to regularly because its just too far away from anywhere.

    1080 is the way till some bright young thing comes up with a evil genitic engineerd plauge.

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  8. jcuk (505 comments) says:

    Ignoring the foolish comments about the unemployed not getting out of bed … I often go for my shower at 11am after wasting a few hours at bloggs … I used to suggest that those of the dole would be better put to fighting possums etc but really going out in the bush is a serious business and not to be engaged in by the unskilled and untrained in survival. S&R have enough to do as it is.

    As for the late risers … what is the point in getting up if you don’t have something to do or work to go to ?

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  9. jcuk (505 comments) says:

    nickB … NO another P came … PG!

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  10. Tom Barker (92 comments) says:

    “On the one side, we have pretty much all the scientists and the people competent to review the evidence and reach a conclusion based on it. On the other side, we have a bunch of people with little knowledge of the subject but very strong opinions on it.”

    Exactly like global warming, in fact. Except in that case, Kiwiblog readers are not on the scientists’ side.

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  11. David in Chch (503 comments) says:

    When I first arrived in New Zealand more than 20 years ago, there were large patches of forest with little or no foliage, and I hardly ever saw or heard native birds. Now I rarely see bare patches of forest and I have seen more native birds in the last year than ever before. 1080 works, and ALL of the evidence shows that it works well with little collateral damage. Pete George: The other animal life adversely affected are almost always the non-native species. I for one prefer to keep our unique native species. And as the studies have shown, the gains in native bird populations far outweigh any losses.

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  12. David Garrett (5,120 comments) says:

    I was in Parliament when the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment released her report on 1080. The Greens were eagerly awaiting it, expecting it to be a ringing denunciation of the poison. Dr Wright – IIRC – not only said the stuff was perfectly safe, but that we should use a great deal more of it to hit the possum population.

    Overnight, Wright changed from the darling of the Greens to their bete noire…there were even dire mutterings among them to the effect that she had been “bought off”. It was an excellent example of the obsessive religion that the Greenies belong to…Whatever the science says, if it doesnt fit with their obsession with protecting Gaia from any possible imposition, it must be rejected.

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  13. metcalph (1,293 comments) says:

    Speaking with chemistry experience, what impresses me most about 1080 is:

    1) it was a pesticide naturally found in a plant. That means environmental hazards are far less likely to be a problem.

    2) it has a remarkably simple structure. For toxic organic compounds, the general principal is the more (benzyl) rings it has, the worst it will be. But 1080 is simply a fluoridated acetate: sleek, linear and elegant.

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  14. freedom101 (439 comments) says:

    Peter Dunne opposes 1080 because he courts the hunters and shooters. The day he decides they are of no further use to him (must be soon one thinks) he will do a 180 degree about turn and support 1080. Interesting to see that after many many years promoting Transmission Gully he is now siding with 40 residents whose homes will be affected. What a wally.

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  15. Newbie (26 comments) says:

    Interesting comment in the feedback section – basically saying that if scientists express concerns about the use of 1080, they will be out of a job.

    While I support, in part, the use of 1080, it does concern me if there are any unknowns or potential problems about the use of 1080, that these concerned scientist cannot tell us. (Remember Agent Orange?)

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  16. wikiriwhis business (3,286 comments) says:

    Yet no Kiwiblogger speaks of paying unemployed to cull pests and become productive.

    No solutions just empty rhetoric and complaining.

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  17. David Garrett (5,120 comments) says:

    Newbie: What are you talking about? Where is this “feedback section” in which scientists are supposedly muzzled if they don’t agree?

    Do you yourself have any qualifications in chemistry or any of the other sciences?

    Wiki: I suggest you actually READ the comments above…a number of commenters have pointed out the flaws in the “get the unemployed out trapping them” strategy…Have you yourself ever been in heavy bush, say out the back of Taranaki or the Ureweras?

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  18. Pete George (21,804 comments) says:

    The other animal life adversely affected are almost always the non-native species. I for one prefer to keep our unique native species. And as the studies have shown, the gains in native bird populations far outweigh any losses.

    I agree, although it can impact negatively on some native species.

    I’m not anti-1080 but I’d prefer to see alternatives established (no sign of much of significance yet).

    And 1080 isn’t the total answer anyway, we still have major pest problems despite it’s use.

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  19. Pete George (21,804 comments) says:

    I wonder what the Greens would favour if a genetic modification based alternative is found to 1080. Probably an inquiry or a ban.

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  20. Newbie (26 comments) says:

    David G – the feedback is in the CHCh Press
    http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/9685835/Scientists-back-plan-to-boost-1080-drops

    No, I don’t have any chemistry qualifications.

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  21. Shunda barunda (2,964 comments) says:

    This has been a contentious issue on the West Coast for a long time now, long enough for the true colours of anti 1080 activists to reveal themselves, and I can tell you that they are usually bat shit crazy people that use intimidation, fear, and complete ignorance to spread their misinformation.

    I can completely understand why those into hunting introduced species are uncomfortable with it’s use, fair enough, but despite claims that it would ruin hunting opportunities here, nothing could be further from the truth. DoC have proven that they are capable of working with hunting groups to mange areas favored by hunters, providing said hunters aren’t the anti DoC nutters that take every opportunity to destroy government property on DoC estate.

    The truth is, the vast majority of popular hunting areas use ground control methods anyway, if you can get in there to hunt, you can get in there to trap, and they do. Aerial 1080 is an essential tool for those back blocks that are inaccessible, or very steep terrain like the Otira valley where ground control is simply too difficult.

    And speaking of the Otira valley, it is considered the most pest controlled valley in NZ having had continuous pest control since the late 60′s . The valley is thriving, the rata display on a good year is quite simply breathtaking, whole slopes of some of the largest mountains in NZ cloaked in bright scarlet is a sight to behold, it is a relic of old NZ. Yet the unprotected Valley next range over is almost completely dead due to no control.

    The numbers of native birds in controlled areas is simply remarkable, the last 10years in particular has seen exponential growth of all native species, we may even be seeing the beginnings of what NZ used to be like. I regularly see NZ falcons in the middle of town now, as well as huge numbers of Tui, Wood pigeons, bell birds, you name it, all in residential Greymouth.

    If we stop 1080 now we would be fucking insane.

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  22. RRM (8,988 comments) says:

    Hunters hate 1080 (the blue rain of death) coz it kills deer. DOC can use deer repelent on the baits but it costs more.

    Yeah well hunters and their pointless passtime can go fuck themselves sideways quite frankly!

    The only benefit of letting hunters go killing pest animals for fun, is that they occasionally manage to shoot a pest animal.

    They don’t NEED to do it. They only WANT to do it.

    So if 1080 drops kill so many pests that it reduces opportunities for recreational hunters… too bad.

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  23. Maggy Wassilieff (180 comments) says:

    Well I’ve been waiting for over 30 years for a genetic or reproductive control agent or disease organism to finish off possums in NZ and I think I’m on fairly solid ground by stating that pigs will fly before I see a biological answer to possum control in NZ.
    Its a pity that the 1080- possum control debate focuses so much on birds, since this seems to play into the hands of those who get all fuzzy when they think of one of god’s wee creatures dying all alone in a big empty forest.
    But as I’ve been described as a one-eyed chlorophyll-mad advocate, I’ll sing the praises of 1080 for being the best tool for halting the simplification of structure and composition of our native forests and shrublands. Birds need habitat in which to live, reproduce and raise their chicks. Its pretty pointless having small predator-free reserves (a la Zealandia) to raise native birds if the forests beyond the reserve are depauperate of food, nesting sites and full of predators. As folks in Wellington are discovering, the young mahoe forests of the city aren’t much cop for kaka, bellbirds, tomtits, kereru and hihi. For nearly 130 years, possums had a smorgsbord of yummy foliage and fruits and effectively prevented any regeneration of kohekohe, tawa, nikau and podocarps around the city.

    It could be decades before many of the 1080-treated forests recover the former complex structure and composition that is needed if healthy bird populations are to thrive, but if action isn’t taken to control herbivorous and omnivorous pests like possums, goats and deer, then its not only curtains for the birdies but its a big stuff-up for the entire forest ecosystem.

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  24. jcuk (505 comments) says:

    When you go to this site listed by Newbie and study the map it seems the proposed ‘extra’ drops is such a small area relative to the total area it is hardly worth worrying about.
    http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/9685835/Scientists-back-plan-to-boost-1080-drops

    If only the country could afford more drops than planned.

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  25. corrigenda (142 comments) says:

    Possum control is not the answer to TB control. In the Middle Ages, people were living in crowded conditions with no sanitation and disease was rife. If you look at the way dairy farmers manage their herds, you will see hundreds of cows forced into small paddocks and any grass they eat will already be contaminated with both shit and urine. Crowded conditions, no sanitation, welcome disease including TB!!!

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  26. Kea (10,451 comments) says:

    Long ago radical environmentalists from Forrest & Bird (which its self was taken over by radicals) took over DOC. These people hate all introduced animals and want them gone. Talk of TB ect is just a means of getting funding. The agenda is total annihilation of all introduced animals. Do not underestimate just how strongly these people feel about this. They are lunatic fringe greenies.

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  27. Maggy Wassilieff (180 comments) says:

    Oh come on Kea,…. you are confused… your facts are getting tangled…. let me straighten them out…..
    Radical environmentalists didn’t take over DoC….. basically bird-focused folk did… i.e. staff from the old Wildlife Service made all the running. Its only been in recent years that DoC has started to come to grips with the fact that its responsible for more than a few iconic bird species..
    Sadly, Bovine TB spread by possums is a reality….
    Corrigenda… try and inform yourself as to how snuffling possums spread the bacteria to cattle
    http://www.tbfree.org.nz/what-is-bovine-tuberculosis-2-3.aspx

    Honestly, if cattle had never got TB from possums, I doubt if any action would have been taken against this pest. Nothing was done for decades, even though botanists/ ecologists had been telling successive Governments since the 1940s that our Kamahi forests, rata forests, mistletoes, etc were under threat from possums.

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  28. corrigenda (142 comments) says:

    Maggy, the conditions that herds are kept in means there is no way TB can be wiped out. Overcrowding and feeding among effluent will ensure TB stays rampant.

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  29. gravedodger (1,426 comments) says:

    @corrigenda 2 15, utter crap or in your vernacula, shit.
    Why is TB not a massive problem in say HongKong or Tokyo.
    Because the population is healthy.
    The mob stocked Cows are healthy assertained by regular testing.
    Feral Possums move across pasture at night with TB lesions superating infection onto the grass that is then ingested.
    The infection occurs whether the Cow is grazing at 1 per Ha or 100 per Ha.
    90% of the fodder is eaten by mobstocked animals before any significant spoiling is a problem, then they defecate and urinate leaving that recycled plant food in situ.
    You need to read more.

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  30. Kea (10,451 comments) says:

    The problem is actually cows giving possums TB.

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  31. Maggy Wassilieff (180 comments) says:

    @ Corrigenda… I’ll admit that dairying nowadays is Waaay different from a few decades ago and the problem of TB eradication from a district may be more of a financial and logistical nightmare than it was 20 or 30 yrs ago. But dispersing tubercular possums have spread TB into regions where cattle were free of TB and not held in paddocks.

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  32. Shunda barunda (2,964 comments) says:

    Long ago radical environmentalists from Forrest & Bird (which its self was taken over by radicals) took over DOC. These people hate all introduced animals and want them gone. Talk of TB ect is just a means of getting funding. The agenda is total annihilation of all introduced animals. Do not underestimate just how strongly these people feel about this. They are lunatic fringe greenies.

    Even if that is true, a broken clock is still right twice a day.

    But it isn’t true, a lot of the DoC staff I deal with are often into recreational hunting themselves and have a pretty balanced view of the issue.

    The recent restructuring of DoC was a godsend in my opinion, as it served to clean out a lot of dead wood in the organization and now the department is heading more toward an ethos that it always should have held.

    DoC is no longer part of “the crown jewels” of the previous Labour government, this should ensure that we become more conservation orientated instead of a narrow preservationist approach which is naive and completely inappropriate for the modified environment that now exists in NZ.

    Most of the time when you break down some of the objections from the hunting fraternity you will hear complaints of “back in my day there were more deer and you always came out of the bush with a kill” well the reason for this was because of plague like populations that were causing massive damage. If shooting fish in a barrel is what they consider “good hunting” then I think they are completely deluded. The Hunting experience is now more as it should be and anyone that puts in a bit of effort will be rewarded by animals in good condition and be able to enjoy some of the best hunting anywhere in the world.

    1080 is actually doing them a service by keeping population explosions in check.

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  33. Kea (10,451 comments) says:

    Shunda barunda, sure there are lots of hunters in DOC. But they are not the ones running the show.

    To give you an idea of the hatred these people have for animals; When Ansett ran ads for its whisper jets they showed Deer feeding . Forest and Bird complained the ad was “offensive” and they pulled it. The top people in DOC are Forest and Bird people. They even want the trout out of the rivers.

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  34. Shunda barunda (2,964 comments) says:

    Kea, how realistic are those objectives though? it is an impossibility to rid the country of trout and deer, there is simply no feasible way to do it so even if there are people out there that want to, it isn’t going to happen.

    I hear you about some of the antics of forest and bird though, I have personally experienced some of the crap they throw even at other people that are concerned about the environment.

    It seems that unless you are politically useful to them then they don’t consider you to be a “proper” environmentalist.

    I resent the fact that the extreme political left have so thoroughly hijacked environmentalism in NZ, most Kiwis would probably take more pride in the plants and critters of this land if that wasn’t the case.

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  35. Colville (1,771 comments) says:

    Shunda barunda

    Hunting is way better now than 20 years ago, no helicopters shooting all the deer for export to Germany.
    Any decent hunter can find more than enough to keep the freezer full.
    Probably been 50 years since deer have been at really high levels, meat hunting brought numbers down fast when a deer was worth a weeks wages to a part time shooter. Poachers everywhere !

    Only place in NZ I can think of with a deer “problem” would be from Wanganui to Raetihi way. Lots of fallow up there.

    Any farmers up that way reading this…I would be only too pleased to help :-) Goats too. All in a days work :-)

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  36. Maggy Wassilieff (180 comments) says:

    @Kea
    “The problem is actually cows giving possums TB.”

    No, the problem is that possums are the Vector of disease transmission……. cows usually stay put in a region: possums wander about… into neighbouring farms, into uninfected catchments, across mountain ranges….

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  37. MH (558 comments) says:

    have you heard 1080 recently,I just don’t think they have the AM/FM output to drive opossums out into the open. It really needs good announcers to have any effect,perhaps the birdcall from RNZ could be used? The SPCA would be agin it. Inhumane,cruel and unusual.

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  38. jcuk (505 comments) says:

    Kea caught a whale of a big fish with you Maggie :)

    Yeah RIGHT! MH :)

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