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Risk Too Great: Kea Deaths Highlight 1080 Poison Failure And Lack Of Accountability

Kea are a protected endangered species and the only alpine parrot in the world. There is an estimated population of between 3000 - 7000 of the curious and unique birds living in the Southern Alps of New Zealand.

Asha Andersen, spokesperson of Flora and Fauna of Aotearoa said today that in a bitter twist, the Department of Conservation (DoC) who is charged with protecting Kea, has instead poisoned and killed some of these treasured taonga species at Arthurs Pass in another botched aerial 1080 poison operation.

Andersen said that it’s well known 1080 kills Kea and this isn’t the first time DoC has been responsible for poisoning the birds.

“In 2016 The New Zealand Herald reported that Official Information Act documents revealed that two dozen of the endangered birds had been killed by the 1080 poison in aerial operations between May 2008 and November 2015. This was confirmed by Fiona McQueen, author of The Quiet Forest: the case against aerial 1080” said Andersen.

Researching her book, McQueen found a 2016 DOC memorandum that stated “of the 199 Kea monitored, 24 died of 1080 poisoning … of the 24 poisoned Kea, 13 died the day after 1080 baits were sown and 7 others died by the fifth day after sowing.”

McQueen said today that a litany of DOC-confirmed 1080-induced Kea deaths have followed on from there, including a whopping 50% of monitored birds after the 2020 drop in the pristine Matukituki Valley near Wanaka.

“The justification is always the same” said McQueen. “Aerial predator control is proven to benefit kea populations.” Really? There are, as yet, no long-term, prospective, statistically valid published studies of kea populations in the wild that prove this. DOC reports tiny numbers of monitored birds with wildly variable results - 6% killed by predators in 2019 and 60% in 2020. Meanwhile the process grinds on inexorably. The next 1080 drop is happening this month, covering the Routeburn, Caples and Greenstone valleys and extending up to the tussock land which is kea habitat. One thing is certain - 1080 kills keas and those deaths are avoidable.”

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Despite this horrific pattern emerging of poisoned kea, it seems the Department of Conservation and those who operate it think they are above the law and that kea deaths are acceptable, said Flora & Fauna’s Asha Andersen. She questions why they have been getting away with it.

“If any ordinary individual purposefully or accidentally killed protected native wildlife, according to the Wildlife Act (1953) they would face up to 2 years in prison or a fine of up to $100,000. So why can DOC can get away with using toxic chemicals such as 1080 to indiscriminately poison Kea habitat, killing the birds? Where is the oversight?

Flora & Fauna of Aotearoa are calling for an end to all 1080 operations. “The collateral damage is now too great to ignore. It is time for DOC to be held to account for killing native birds and an end brought to decades of harmful aerial 1080 poisoning before more wildlife suffer this cruel fate.”


2022: Department of conservation says it needs to do better after 1080 drop kills Kea

2020: Kea likely killed by 1080 drop

2016: Two dozen endangered Kea killed in 1080 poison drops

The Quiet Forest: the case against aerial 1080

Wildlife Act 1953

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