From April 2000 to December 2004, quarterly newsletters (“Rare Bits”) on threatened species work with contributions from each regional conservancy were produced by the New Zealand Department of Conservation (DoC). These newsletters provide an insight into the actions DoC was taking to conserve our rare species and the success or otherwise of those efforts.
This Index of the Rare Bits newsletters is a collection of quotes from those documents which has been created to identify threats to native species, and management failures and successes, to help guide future conservation efforts.
The newsletters contain compelling evidence that much of DoC’s management was having devastating effects on biodiversity, and was desperately lacking a science-based approach.
Our remaining native species need all the genetic diversity they have if they are to survive forthcoming challenges such as drought, storms, disease and habitat modification, therefore they should be managed with extreme care.
The newsletters also show that trapping pests (rather than poisoning) is entirely feasible, but that sudden alterations to the ecosystem are likely to have harmful and catastrophic results, especially if done in an unintelligent way, such as just removing stoats, or cats. Bait stations containing poison kill native species (see the Agency’s Appendix O in the Environmental Risk Management Authority’s review of 1080, 2007) and some traps do as well (see the “by-catch” section in the current document) so future efforts to control pests should record by-catch and continuously strive towards complete species-specificity.
Summary of Main Points
- Stoats, rats & cats are the no. 1 introduced killers of NZ native birds
- Aerial 1080 is not effective in controlling stoats or rats on the mainland, in fact, its use is associated with rapid increases in numbers of stoats, rats and mice
- Aerial poisoning operations incur a massive cost in time spent organising, & translocating & monitoring favoured species
- Poisoning operations invariably delay pest control, allowing further genetic loss, while the operations are being organised
- Intensive, constant, simultaneous control of predators (including stoats, rats & cats) is necessary to prevent species loss. Trapping to just remove stoats has been followed by rat plagues
- Trapping is effective for catching multiple pest species (including stoats, ferrets, weasels, rats, cats, possums, hedgehogs & mice)
- Some traps (leghold, Elliot, Easiset and Fenn) harm native species including birds, lizards and giant weta
- Possums are mainly herbivores, with strong preferences for Dactylanthus & mistletoe plants, but these plants often co-exist with possums, and possum numbers have to be extremely low to prevent visible damage
- Herbivore browsing helps to keep mistletoe from killing its host plant, is natural in NZ & can enhance species diversity
- DoC has poisoned nearly all of our offshore Islands, with unknown consequences for our unique species
- DoC has carried out a huge number of translocations of species, with unknown ecological & genetic consequences
- Translocated birds frequently die from predation & misadventure, starvation, suffer social stress, and wander far and wide, sometimes even managing to return home
- Kakapo, on the brink of extinction, have been subjected to multiple translocations
- Radio transmitters with an aerial, attached to a harness, have been routinely fitted to our rare birds (including blue duck, takahe and kiwi), many of which have died rapidly from predation, entanglement or starvation/hypothermia or become lost with their harnesses on. This equipment has been shown to increase energy requirements
- Breeding of rare birds has been prevented, and failure of nests increased, by DoC harassment (intensively monitoring nests, banding chicks, attaching transmitters, stealing & swapping eggs and chicks, hand-feeding) Operation Nest Egg, in which eggs are taken from kiwi & blue duck nests for artificial rearing, has been responsible for massive animal stress & genetic loss through broken and dead eggs, dying chicks, failure to learn appropriate feeding & sheltering behaviour, wandering birds being killed & translocation/mixing of genetics. Studies indicate that kiwis (like many other birds) naturally stay near their home, often with their parents helping to raise chicks. One male kiwi appears to have had 5 successive eggs removed.
- Major threats to NZ species include poisoning, introduced species, intensive monitoring, translocation, livestock (feral and farm) damage, drought, flooding, storms and road, hydro & other development
- Dogs have enormous potential to help with biodiversity protection, with claims that DoC dogs can find specific animal pest species (including stoats, cats and rats), and specific plants
- Community involvement can enhance biodiversity – where rare biodiversity gains were recorded during 2000-2004, volunteers had assisted (e.g. trapping, searching for species, planting, fencing, weeding & caging plants)
- New species are regularly discovered in NZ, making nonsense of claims that DoC knows what it’s doing with poisoning operations
- DoC has consistently failed to scientifically monitor the ecological outcomes of its actions
- Massive biodiversity loss has occurred under DoC management, through poisoning, translocations, intensive monitoring of favourite rare species, weeds, neglect and habitat loss.