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Snake Invasion of New Zealand Seems Inevitable


5 September 2000

MEDIA RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE USE

Snake Invasion of New Zealand Seems Inevitable

A snake invasion of New Zealand seems inevitable according to Forest and Bird following the discovery of yet another live snake in New Zealand.

The latest snake was found when a shipping container of used batteries from Australia was being unloaded at Petone on Sunday. It is the fourth live snake found in New Zealand this year.

Forest and Bird's conservation director Kevin Smith said New Zealand's unique snake free status seemed destined to end in the near future unless there was a massive upgrade in container biosecurity.

"The establishment of snakes in New Zealand would be disastrous for New Zealand's native wildlife. Our native birds evolved in the absence of snakes and would have few defences against them. Snakes are a major predator of birds overseas."

Mr Smith said that some overseas exporters obviously ignored the New Zealand MAF requirement to ensure containers were free of pests.

"Containers are a biosecurity nightmare. They provide a safe, secure environment for the distribution of alien species around the planet. Because they are hard to inspect, MAF rely mainly on documentation accompanying the container certifying it to be free of pests. That documentation can often not be believed.'

Mr Smith said he understood that MAF were about to embark on a comprehensive review of container biosecurity regimes thanks to the extra biosecurity funding obtained by the Green Party.

"But I fear that unless tough new controls on containers are implemented speedily snakes will be established in New Zealand before MAF's review is even half completed. Reviews, studies and more research is needed but so is immediate action. Forest and Bird would like to see a suspension of trade with any overseas exporter found to be sending to New Zealand containers with snakes or other serious potential pests."

"Contanimated containers or containers with false or inadequate biosecurity documentation should be shipped back to the overseas exporter at their expense."

Forest and Bird wants Biosecurity Minister Marian Hobbs to give urgency to an immediate overhaul of container biosecurity.

"Ms Hobbs has recently taken welcome action to ensure that the Japanese send us pest free used vehicles, she now needs to insist that Australia and other snake-infested countries do not send us live snakes."

Ends


Kevin Smith Conservation Director Forest and Bird Protection Society PO Box 631 Wellington New Zealand k.smith@wn.forest-bird.org.nz ph 04 3857374 fax 04 3857373 www.forest-bird.org.nz


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