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Government must fund DOC’s 1080 boost to save native species

Forest & Bird media release - embargoed until 2000 hours January 29 2014

Government must fund DOC’s 1080 boost to save native species

Forest & Bird, New Zealand’s largest conservation charity, says an increase in 1080 predator control operations announced by the Department of Conservation is a fitting response to the grave threat posed by this year’s massive crop of seeds in native forests.

But Forest & Bird also says the level of 1080 predator control carried out over the next five years should become the new baseline, if the ongoing battle against introduced predators is to be won.  

DOC announced late today that predator control using 1080 baits will – if needed - take place over an extra roughly 500,000 hectares of the conservation estate.

Last year, a total of around 400,000 hectares of conservation land benefitted from this type of predator control, funded by the Department of Conservation and the Animal Health Board.

“We know from 2000 – the last time native forests had a bumper crop of seeds, or mast year – that if they don’t get on top of the rats and stoats, the impact on native wildlife is severe,” says Forest & Bird Advocacy Manager Kevin Hackwell.

“The high level of stoat numbers in the 2000 mast year wiped out all the mohua (yellowhead) in one of the birds’ last strongholds, in the Marlborough Sounds. Mohua were just one of several species that were further endangered by that masting event. This kind of decimation must not be repeated. Mast years require action, not talk, and I’m very pleased to see that DOC has answered this challenge.

“Without this increase in predator control, there will be a real possibility that we will lose a bird species this mast year. Ground control operations carried out by Forest & Bird branches around the country are already reporting increased numbers of rats. That means the stoats will follow. The efforts of Forest & Bird volunteers and others could well be overwhelmed,” Kevin Hackwell says.

In a masting year, when native plants have many seeds, the extra food on the forest floor results in high numbers of rats. Stoats, which feed on the rats, also increase in numbers. As the rats run out of seed, and are eaten by the stoats, their numbers go down. The stoats then resort to eating native birds and other native animals.

“Forest & Bird is very concerned that money for the extra predator control will come from DOC’s operating budget. The department has already had successive years of budget cuts. Now it will have to find another $21 million over the next five years to offset the cost of this extra predator control,” Kevin Hackwell says.

“DOC should be funded properly for dealing with this event. But, if this level of predator control is not maintained, the money could easily be wasted. For this reason the programme over the next five years should become the new standard for DOC’s aerial 1080 operations,” Kevin Hackwell says.

Forest & Bird National President Andrew Cutler says the announcement is good news for New Zealand’s forests and wildlife, and will be welcomed by Forest & Bird’s members and supporters. “Simply put, the expansion of the area receiving predator control will mean healthier forests and more native birds. It will mean that in coming years the dawn chorus will be restored across large parts of New Zealand.”

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, and the Environmental Protection Agency, have separately investigated the use of 1080. Both found it to be safe, and to be the only way to control predators across whole landscapes.

Forest & Bird is New Zealand's largest independent conservation organisation, with 50 branches nationwide. It protects our native plants, animals and wild places, on land and in our oceans.

ENDS

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