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Ten actual truths about 1080

January 31, 2014

Ten actual truths about 1080

DOC’s Battle For Our Birds campaign has been labelled ‘controversial’ by many news outlets because of the proposed increase in the use of the poison 1080.

But when you look at the facts and speak to people who really understand how the poison works, there’s little controversy about its effectiveness or the threat posed to humans and native birds.

In its February 2014 issue, Wilderness magazine put 10 commonly held beliefs about 1080 to three independent experts, who responded with what is currently known about the toxin, rather than with rumours and anecdotes.

The three experts we spoke to were Dr Jan Wright, Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Dr James Ross, senior lecturer in wildlife management at Lincoln University, and Penny Fisher from Landcare Research. Here were the clear verdicts from these conversations:

·         Belief one: 1080 threatens native bird populations
Verdict: FALSE. 
While individual birds have been killed by 1080, the experts agree that the benefits to overall population health outweigh the harm.
Whio, kereru, kiwi, kea, tomtits, robins, kakariki and mohua have all responded well to aerial 1080 operations, with increased chick and adult survival, and increases in population size. There are no recorded cases where kiwi have been killed by 1080.” – Dr Jan Wright

·         Belief two: It kills dogs
Verdict: TRUE. 
1080 will kill dogs if they ingest it, thought the recorded instances of this happening are low.
Since 2007, there have been eight confirmed cases of dogs being poisoned by 1080. The two most common poisonings of dogs are from anti-coagulant rat poisons and slug baits.” – Dr Jan Wright

·         Belief three: It’s a particularly inhumane way to kill an animal
Verdict: FALSE 
1080 is described as moderately humane.
What is humane? One thing we focus on is time to death – faster is generally viewed as more humane. [With 1080] an animal will be dead within 24 hours.” – Dr James Ross

·         Belief four: Traps and hunters can be used to control pests
Verdict: FALSE 
Bounty systems have been tried in the past and proven ineffective – hunters just took the easily-accessed pests. The scale of the problem and the terrain pests are found in would make relying solely on traps and hunters inefficient and ineffectual.
It’s not possible to get into some of the remote places that are steep and inaccessible. You just wouldn’t be able to get everywhere you can reach with an aerial drop.” – Dr James Ross

·         Belief five: 1080 is only used in New Zealand
Verdict: FALSE 
Several other countries use 1080 for pest control, including Australia. In Western Australia, it is used over hundreds of thousands of hectares to control foxes, cats and wild dogs.” – Dr Jan Wright

·         Belief six: There hasn’t been enough research into its effectiveness and potential harm
Verdict: FALSE 
There is a wealth of research into 1080 dating as far back as the 1950s.
There has been constant research addressing many aspects of the efficacy and environmental effects of 1080 use, particularly for possum management.” – Penny Fisher

·         Belief seven: It remains in water supplies and soil, which could harm humans, animals and plants
Verdict: FALSE Because 1080 biodegrades so quickly, harmful concentrations of the poison do not linger in the environment.
One of the requirements of a 1080 drop is to test water supplies and it has never, ever been found in public drinking water supplies.” – Dr James Ross

·         Belief eight: Humans have been killed and made ill from 1080
Verdict: TRUE 
One person is known to have died in the 1960s after he ate jam-laced pellets. This type of bait is no longer used.

·         Belief nine:  1080 kills deer, pigs and other mammals commonly hunted in New Zealand
Verdict: TRUE 
If other mammals ingest enough 1080 it will kill them.
Deer, pigs and other game mammals are susceptible to 1080 poisoning if they find and consume sufficient bait pellets within a short (approx 12hr) period.” – Penny Fisher
·         Belief ten: Native birds would survive if we stopped using 1080

Verdict: FALSE Vulnerable birds would only survive on off-shore islands and small pockets of intensive protection.
If we decided to stop using 1080 it would probably mean New Zealanders would have to accept they would no longer see certain bird species outside heavily protected sanctuaries or off-shore islands.” – Penny Fisher

Editor of Wilderness Alistair Hall says we should let DOC get on with the job: “These interviews have taught us that research into the toxin has been thorough and the results are clear.

“As trampers, we regard native birds as an invaluable part of the back country experience. Unless DOC is allowed to fight this predator plague with the only effective means available, there’s a risk we could lose these birds forever.

“It’s time to stop giving credence to arguments that rely on nothing more than hearsay and anecdotes. We should look and act on the science before it’s too late to act at all.”

Full interviews with the experts can be found in February’s issue of Wilderness magazine.

Notes to editors:
Wilderness is a monthly magazine that was first published by Lifestyle Publishing in September 1991. It writes for trampers, walkers and mountaineers across New Zealand. It features trips to beautiful and often remote backcountry locations, as well as gear reviews, skills advice and news items.


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