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DoC Not Truthful Saying Possums Are Bird Predators - CORANZ

Claims by the Department of Conservation and some green groups that possums are eating birds eggs are incorrect and in any case, contrary to research says Andi Cockroft, chairman of Council of Outdoor Recreation Associations of NZ (CORANZ), a national forum for outdoor recreation groups.

“The Department of Conservation is either ignorant and incompetent or deliberately lying to keep their anti-predator, pro-1080 poison policy going,” he said.

In a series of field trials near Wellington, over several nights Andi Cockroft laid out bread and hen eggs. The idea of the tests began when he noticed that bread left the previous evening for birds had vanished at first light next morning.

“I suspected possums but it might have been rats, or other birds,” he said. “I decided to put hens eggs out too, to test DoC spin that labelled the possum as a bird nest predator.”

However infra-red photography over several nights showed it was nocturnal possums delighting in eating the bread but totally ignoring the eggs.”

He decided to try to induce the possums to break the eggs by coating them with golden syrup as an attractant. While the possums licked the syrup off the eggs, they showed no inclination to break even one egg.

Andi Cockroft described the exercise as "a simple high-school type experiment conducted to determine if the possum naturally consumes eggs.”

Although a hen’s egg may seem rather large by comparison to some of New Zealand's at-risk native species, it is actually very small compared to the kiwi’s egg which was one of the largest eggs in proportion to its size of any bird in the world, even though the kiwi is about the size of a domestic chicken,

“In fact the kiwi egg is about six times the size of a chicken’s egg,” he said.

“In the area the tests were carried out, the possum population is not controlled other than by road-kill, natural attrition and me getting annoyed and culling a few of the local intrusive ones. They are generally well fed with plenty of edible plant species around that they seem to thrive upon. Naturally inquisitive and generally unafraid of either myself or my dog, they are at times a nuisance."

Andi Cockroft said he was not surprised at the result of the trial in the light of past research. A Landcare Research study in 2007 analysed 26 possum stomach contents and showed no meat or feathers. Another study in South Westland of 135 possums showed no trace of birds or eggs. Despite these studies, the Department of Conservation regularly claimed possums prey on birds, fledglings and eggs. Even a study on possums by scientist R I Kean and wild life technician Les Pracy in the Orongorongo Ranges near Wellington in the 1950s, based on analysing 20,000 possums clearly ruled out possums eating birds or eggs. Yet the department, Forest and Bird Society and on one occasion a Landcare Research scientists had labelled possums as predators he said.

Andi Cockroft said he was not a hunter but simply a “rational conservationist."

The Department of Conservation on the internet had used a photo of a possum and an egg to support its “demonisation” of the possum. However the photo had been analysed independently, strongly suggesting it was faked.

“The photo apparently was not even DoC’s but borrowed from some zealous extreme conservation group,” said Andi Cockroft. “This is just not good enough.”

DoC and Forest and Bird seemed to rely on that supposed video from 1993 of a possum with a rat eating a chick.

“DoC apparently have never tested on the video’s authenticity, nor it seems attempted to replicate the experiment itself, despite so many autopsies that have shown no evidence of eggs or feathers in possum stomachs,” said Andi Cockroft.

It needed independent credible science, not fabricated “research” or “paid commissioned science. Why would DoC with all it’s taxpayer funded resources not bother to check the video and photo’s veracity and instead relied solely on a third party eco-group for evidence he asked.

“In any case past research as far back as the 1950s on 20,000 possums and since clearly shows DoC making a scapegoat out of possums merely to justify government’s ludicrous PredatorFree 2050 and its associated poison programme which is killing thousands of birds and the insect food source of many insectivorous birds.”

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