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Birds New Zealand endorses the Use of 1080 for Pest Control

10 February 2014

Birds New Zealand endorses the Use of 1080 for Pest Control for Protecting Native Birds

Birds New Zealand President, David Lawrie, said today that his society strongly endorses the decision of the Government announced earlier this week by the Hon. Dr. Nick Smith, Minister of Conservation, for the aerial use of 1080 pesticide in a “Battle for Our Birds” for the control of animal pests to achieve better protection of our at risk native birds.

Mr. Lawrie said, “Members of Birds New Zealand are increasingly concerned at the steady loss of native birds in all natural habitats, especially iconic, rare and endangered species that include kiwi, kakariki, kea, kaka, mohua, whio and kokako. The ‘Battle for Our Birds’ programme launched by the Minister to save native species is a welcome response to the expected increase in pest animal numbers that will eventually prey on forest birds following exceptionally heavy seeding in beech forests that is predicted to occur this year”. “Birds living in all natural habitats need protection from rats, stoats and other pests”, said Mr. Lawrie, “and the problem is expected to be especially urgent in coming months in beech forests where very heavy seeding is expected and will lead to greatly increased populations of pest animals that will prey on birds”.

Birds New Zealand accepts the conclusions of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment that careful use of 1080 is safe and that its regulated use is the only tool presently available for cost-effective control of pest animals for the protection of birds over large areas of forests. It complements the use of trapping that is widely applied now but the sheer scale of the pest control problem in beech forests in coming months, especially in the South Island, following predicted mass seeding means that carefully targeted aerial spreading of 1080 is the only practical and realistic approach that can be adopted”, stated Mr. Lawrie.

He said that several studies have been made on the impacts on native birds since the mid 1990s which have demonstrated that aerial 1080 poisoning of possums and other pests has not markedly affected native bird populations and in all cases is beneficial in the longer term.

Studies of North Island robin and North Island tomtit in Pureora Forest Park in 1997/98 concluded that the breeding success of both species improved dramatically after pests were poisoned by aerially distributed 1080 baits. The use of 1080 baits has also been demonstrated in studies published in 2003 to have markedly improved the survival and nesting success of kereru and kaka in Whirinaki Forest Park, near Rotorua.

In a study made on the critically endangered kakapo, a nocturnal herbivorous parrot, Mr. Lawrie said, “The breeding of the kakapo is associated with periodic heavy seeding of several forest trees and other plants, their major plant foods. Protection of kakapo chicks from predation from stoats, rats and possums is therefore critically important when heavy seeding occurs and the careful use of the 1080 pesticide can help achieve this”.

Mr. Lawrie also explained, “That a major concern of ecologists is that 1080 poison itself, however carefully applied, might be killing some of the native bird and other animal species that it is intended to protect. While there was some evidence of this in the past, the design and application of 1080 has changed immensely in recent years”. Mr. Lawrie added, “An issue that has been studied in South Island robins by the Zoology Department in the University of Otago was the effect of an aerial 1080 operation to control possums, which are now preceded by non-toxic pre-feeding bait. The results were clear in that adult robins nesting in the study area of the 1080 operation survived. This University of Otago research is continuing to look for other positive effects of 1080 operations on biodiversity”.

Mr. Lawrie added that, “A conclusion of a study involving the kea, a parrot living only in a few South Island mountains shows that where an aerial application of 1080 was well timed the secondary poisoning of stoats was sufficient to increase kea productivity four-fold over the next two breeding seasons as well as leading to improved survival of birds in all age classes. Populations have been modelled to show that the alternative of no pest control at all would see the likely demise of the kea and that would be very sad loss indeed for such a distinctive and intelligent endemic species”.

“A study published in 2012 of 1080 poisoning of possums where the fernbird occurs suggests that impacts of aerial 1080 operations on fernbird numbers are small and the observed impact is outweighed by improved breeding and survival resulting from the reduction of mammalian predators”, Mr. Lawrie stated.

Birds New Zealand is the recently adopted popular name for the Ornithological Society of New Zealand. The change has been made in the hope that this will improve the awareness, understanding and relevancy of the society to the general public. The society was formed nearly 75 years ago and aims to foster the study, knowledge and enjoyment of birds. Birds New Zealand is committed to the study of birds and their habitat use within New Zealand through encouraging members and organising various projects and schemes. Activities are organised nationally and amongst 18 regions that provides a local network for members to engage in bird studies. Results of studies are published in the society’s scientific journal ‘Notornis’ whilst general articles and news are published in the magazine ‘Birds New Zealand’ (formerly ‘Southern Bird’). The society has more than 1,100 members in New Zealand and overseas.

ENDS

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