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Forest and Bird sounds caution on possum fur idea

The Forest and Bird Protection Society is not enthusiastic about proposals
floated by Alliance leader Jim Anderton to provide government assistance to
the possum fur industry.

Forest and Bird's Conservation Director, Kevin Smith, said effective possum
control for conservation purposes or TB control could not be achieved by
commercial possum trappers.

"Possum trapping can only be profitable, at the low prices paid by the fur
industry of a couple of dollars a skin, when possum numbers are high. Yet
possum numbers need to be reduced to very low levels to provide effective
protection for native forests or to eradicate TB-carrying possums."

Mr Smith said he was a commercial possum trapper in the late 70s when fur
prices were ten times higher than today.

"Even at those high prices, possum trappers needed to farm areas, moving on
once numbers dropped."

"The idea of sending out unemployed people to trap possums for an export fur
industry sounds great in theory. But in practice, this would really just
subsidise a marginally viable industry without achieving forest conservation
or animal health goals."

"Over the last ten years regional councils and the Department of
Conservation have become very efficient at reducing possum numbers by eighty
to ninety percent in areas targeted for control."

Mr Smith said the current possum control operations already provided
significant employment opportunities but it was important their work was
targeted to areas where the possum impacts were greatest.

"If the government adopted the possum fur industry's proposal for a $1 a
possum bounty, they could squander millions of dollars and achieve few
benefits for conservation or for animal health."

Mr Smith said possum control nowadays was not totally reliant on aerial 1080
but made considerable use of contract ground trappers.


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