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Research To Lower Costs Of Possum Control

Media Statement : 18 January 1999

Possum control costs New Zealand more than $50,000,000 every year but local scientists expect to be able to lower this cost.

With investment from the Public Good Science Fund, a HortResearch team led by Christian Cook and Chris Devine, have been developing methods to improve the success of poisoning operations by creating ôsmarterö baits.

ôRats, rabbits, ferrets, cats and possums have caused considerable damage to New ZealandÆs natural and agricultural environments and the cost of damage inflicted upon the country as a whole is immeasurable.ö says project manager Chris Devine.

ôThey kill native flora and fauna, spread serious diseases such as Bovine Tuberculosis, and contribute to erosion.ö

Smarter baits ensure that pests are killed more effectively and that minimal stress is caused to the animal.

In a world first Dr Cook has successfully trialed bait additives to reduce symptoms of suffering in poisoned animals. The compounds so far developed have shown ability to alleviate symptoms such as pain, and psychological effects such as nausea without reducing the toxic effects of the poison.

ôWe have been addressing certain animal welfare issues associated with pest control. Most people understand the need to remove introduced feral pests but also have concerns at the humanness of any control measuresö

The team are also developing antidotes for poisons which are taken by dogs or humans by mistake.

ôThe most commonly used vertebrate pest toxin, 1080, has many advantages but lacks an antidote. Dogs are unfortunately very susceptible to 1080 with the quantity inside a dead possum often enough to kill even a large dog,ö says Dr Cook.

ôWhen an animal is poisoned with 1080, a complex cascade of events begins that affects both the central and systemic nervous systems. We have developed a cocktail of compounds that oppose critical steps in this process. We hope in the near future that this can produce an antidote successful in the treating 1080 intoxication in at-risk animals.ö

For further information contact:
Chris Devine, Manager Pest Control Technology Development Group, HortResearch, 07 858 4867 (wk) Madeleine Setchell, FRST, 04 498 7806 or 025 406040

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