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Claims Of moth escapes from Rotorua untrue

17 November 2003

Claims Of moth escapes from Rotorua quarantine facility untrue

Claims that moth pests including painted apple moth, gum leaf skeletoniser and asian gypsy moth have escaped from Forest Research’s quarantine facility in Rotorua are untrue, MAF Forest Biosecurity Director Peter Thomson said today.

On Wednesday 29 October 2003, Forest Research discovered some painted apple moth larvae in the ash box of the incinerator used to destroy vegetation and pests used in various scientific trials. They were re-incinerated. However a following inspection revealed that two larvae covered in ash had survived and they were killed. MAF was informed immediately.

“MAF believes the possibility of moths or other organisms escaping the facility is highly unlikely because ashes from the incinerator are doused with water and double insulated prior to removal from the facility, then deep buried. Every time the incinerator is used, a check is carried out to ensure it has operated properly and this is the first time a malfunction has been recorded,” Mr Thomson said.

“To escape the facility and survive, the larvae would have had to escape the ash box, climb up the walls and through a vent then find suitable host vegetation. There is no such vegetation within 30m of the facility.”

The incinerator was immediately taken out of use and an on site inspection and investigation was launched by MAF and Forest Research. Following an exhaustive search of the area no life stages or infestations were found.

MAF routinely audits the facility to ensure it meets requirements, however because of this incident, additional audits will be carried out. The last audit was the June 18 2003 and the facility was found to be fully compliant with required standards.

“MAF is also putting in place painted apple moth pheromone traps as an extra precautionary measure to cover the possibility of any spread of painted apple moth which are held in containment rooms within the facility. No asian gypsy moths are held at the facility.” Mr Thomson said.

ENDS

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