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Sweet-smelling possums may help to eradicate TB

Sweet-smelling possums may help to eradicate TB

Using sex pheromones to capture possums is one example of the cutting-edge TB control initiatives featured in this year’s Animal Health Board (AHB) annual report and research report.

A two-year study into using sexually receptive female possums as a way to capture possums of both sexes in areas where numbers are low is among the scientific work forming part of the $2.5 million annually allocated by the AHB to research.

AHB Chief Executive William McCook said the two reports show the continuing significant progress being made in controlling and eradicating bovine TB from New Zealand, with the support of a range of government and industry partners.

“In late 2011 we reached our infected herd target some 18 months ahead of schedule and this leaves us well-placed to begin a concerted effort to banish TB from wildlife – and ultimately from New Zealand,” he said.

“Our 15-year strategy, which began in July 2011, aims to reduce the TB-risk area in New Zealand by some 2.5 million hectares – or one quarter of its current size.

“Having succeeded in reducing infected herd numbers by 96 per cent since 1994, we are supremely well-placed to eradicate the disease from many areas known to contain TB-infected wildlife, particularly possums which are the main culprits in transmitting the disease to cattle and deer herds.

Mr McCook said increased use of portable electronic devices to capture data on the presence, or absence, of TB in wildlife, along with improved methods of targeting possum control in areas where it is most needed would continue to drive efficiencies in the national programme which also incorporates routine livestock testing and herd movement restrictions.

“We also announced exciting plans to eradicate TB from around 200,000 hectares of the West Coast, where the disease has plagued herdowners for several decades.”

West of Lake Taupo, AHB-commissioned researchers have also been exploring new control techniques in difficult terrain.

“This work is covered in the research report, along with a similar study being undertaken in Southland. We are now in a strong position to prove we can rid New Zealand of TB in difficult forest terrain such as the Hauhungaroa Range and the Hokonui Hills,” said Mr McCook.

“We continue to work alongside our strategy partners DairyNZ, Beef + Lamb New Zealand, the deer industry, Federated Farmers and both central and local government.

“When you see what is happening elsewhere in the world, it is important to ensure we have a highly effective TB control programme which is delivering on its promises and protecting premium export market access for dairy, beef and deer products and the $14 billion per year they contribute to the economy.”

Both reports are available on the AHB website


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