In 1979 scientist Eric Spurr warned that wide scale poisoning of New Zealand with compound 1080, intended to kill introduced mammals, was actually killing kea and many other animals. It took decades before NZ’s Department of Conservation (DoC) finally began to monitor kea deaths from 1080 poisoning.
The kea, NZ’s unique mountain parrot, needs urgent consideration. This spring, poisonous food baits are being spread by air over of much its habitat by the Department of Conservation (DoC). Twelve per cent of resident kea are expected to die within a few days of the poisoning, according to DoC’s studies.
- An average of 12% of marked kea have been reported dead within the first few days of aerial poisonings (DoC, 2016; Kemp et al., 2016, unpublished); range up to 78% (Graf, 2011). (Figures do not include later deaths from carcass scavenging or slow deaths from poisoning.)
- There are very few kea: the total number is unknown (Roberts, 2014) but estimates as low as 1000 individuals have been made since 1986 (Bond & Diamond, 1992; Harper, 2012; Roy, 2016).
- 1080 causes many hours of suffering before death. DoC has been criticised for not acknowledging the suffering the poison causes to a very wide range of non-target species (ERMA, 2007).
- Sub-lethal effects of 1080 on birds include damage to testicular morphology (Balcomb et al. 1983) and heart and wing muscles (Ataria et al, 2000).
- Scientists concluded that stoats and possums were NOT a threat to kea nests (Jackson, 1969; Elliott & Kemp, 1999)
- The studies DoC has made of kea are artefacts: nests repeatedly visited and interfered with by humans and showing high levels of disturbance (Orr-Walker, 2012). In contrast, nesting kea are normally secretive; the hen takes years to build her nest and uses it for life (Jackson, 1963).
- DoC claims to have measured a “benefit” from better nest survival of kea after 1080 poisoning at Okarito. This was an unscientific, unreplicated study in one area. As usual the 1080 killed adult kea and was followed by large increases in mice, rats, then a stoat plague in late 2012 (Kemp et al., 2015, unpublished) which was dishonestly cut from the published study’s graph (Kemp et al., 2018).
- Even though DoC has invested thousands of hours videoing kea nests, there is very little evidence that stoats ever prey on kea & none of it has been published for scientific scrutiny (Pollard, 2017).
Even if stoats were a major predator of kea, then poisoning with 1080 is a poor method of controlling them because:
- 1080 poison results in highly variable kill rates of stoats (they don’t eat cereal baits so have to eat poisoned creatures to die) (King & Murphy, 2005; Dilks et al., 2011; Kemp et al., 2014, unpubl.).
- Stoats are unlikely to be poisoned by preying on mice, because mice do not normally eat 1080 pellets (Fisher & Airey, 2009).
- Stoats are unlikely to be killed by preying on rats in alpine kea habitats, because very few rats live there (Christie et al., 2016).
- Stoats that remain after poisoning can “prey-switch” to eat more birds than beforehand (DoC, 2002; King & Murphy, 2005).
- The escalations in rodent numbers which follow 1080 operations are likely to fuel increases in stoat numbers (Byrom et al., 2013).
- Natural stoat plagues last for only a few months before crashing naturally (King 1984; 1990).
- Survival of kea adults, rather than any short -term threat to nests, is more important, because they are a long-lived species with a high juvenile mortality rate (largely due to starvation; estimated as 50-68%) (Jackson, 1969; King, 1984; Bond & Diamond, 1992).
- Any risk is spread because the kea nesting season is very broad (Jackson, 1963) and only a portion of adults breed in any year (Kemp et al,. 2016, unpublished; Jackson, 1963).
- There are indications that kea nesting increases in mast years (Kemp et al., 2015a, cited in DoC, 2016, unpublished) potentially offsetting any increase in stoat predation.
- Fears that a mast-driven stoat plague would devastate birds in the Murchison Mountains turned out to be unfounded; when the food supply (mice) crashed, stoats shifted to eating ground weta, not birds (Smith & Jamieson, 2003).
- Masting vegetation is not a reliable indicator of stoat plagues (O’Donnell & Hoare, 2012; Smith & Jamieson, 2003; Griffiths & Barron, 2016) yet it is used to plan operations in kea habitat (Kea Code of Practice (DoC, 2016 unpublished)).
- 1080 is not only toxic to kea and other birds, but all air-breathing organisms including bacteria, fungi, plants, and invertebrates (ERMA, 2007).
Ataria, J.M., Wickstrom, M., Arthur, D., Eason, C.T., 2000. Biochemical and histopathological changes induced by sodium monofluoroacetate (1080) in mallard ducks. New Zealand Plant Protection 53:293- 298.
Balcomb, R., Bowen, C.A., Williams, H.O., 1983. Acute and sublethal effects of 1080 on starlings. Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology 31: 692-698.
Bond, A., Diamond, J., 1992. Population estimates of Kea in Arthur’s Pass National Park. Notornis 39: 151-160.
Byrom, A., Banks, P., Dickman, C. & Pech, R., 2013. Will reinvasion stymie large-scale eradication of invasive mammals in New Zealand? Kararehe Kino 21: 6-7.
Christie, J.E., Wilson, P.R., Taylor, R.H., Elliott, G., 2017. How elevation affects ship rat (Rattus rattus) capture patterns, Mt Misery, New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Ecology 41: 113-119.
Dilks, P., Shapiro, L., Greene, T., Kavermann, M.J., Eason, C.T. & Murphy, E.C., 2011. Field evaluation of para-aminopropiophenone (PAPP) for controlling stoats (Mustela erminea) in New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Zoology 38: 143-150.
DoC, 2002. Rare Bits Newsletter 44: 9.
DoC, 2016. Aerial 1080 in kea habitat. Code of Practice. NZ Department of Conservation Unclassified document. 24 pp.
Elliott, G., Kemp, J., 1999. Conservation ecology of kea (Nestor notabilis). WWF-NZ Final Report 1 August 1999, 64 pp.
ERMA, 2007. Environmental Risk Management Authority’s Reassessment of 1080, Application HRE05002.
Fisher, P. & Airey, A.T., 2009. Factors affecting 1080 pellet bait acceptance by house mice (Mus musculus). Department of Conservation DOC Research & Dev Series 305-308 Feb-March.
Graf, C., 2011. Seven of Nine Tagged Kea Killed in Okarito Kiwi 1080 drop. http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1109/S00139/seven-of-nine-tagged-kea-killed-in-okarito-kiwi-1080-drop.htm
Griffiths, J.W., Barron, M.C., 2016. Spatiotemporal changes in relative rat (Rattus rattus) abundance following large-scale pest control. New Zealand Journal of Ecology 40: 371-380.
Harper, P., 2012. DOC shocked five Kea shot dead. Nestor Notabilis 6: 24.
Jackson, J.R., 1963. The nesting of Kea. Notornis X: 319-326.
Jackson, J.R., 1969. What do keas die of? Notornis 16: 33-44.
Kemp, J., Orr-Walker, T., Elliott, G., Adams, N., Fraser, J., Roberts, L., Mosen, C., Amey, J., Barrett, B., Makan, T., 2014, unpublished. Benefits to kea (Nestor notabilis) populations from invasive mammal control via aerial 1080 baiting. Department of Conservation. 29 pp.
Kemp, J., Cunninghame, F., Barrett, B., Makan, T., Fraser, J., Mosen, C., 2015, unpublished. Effect of an aerial 1080 operation on the productivity of the kea (Nestor notabilis) in a West Coast rimu forest. Department of Conservation report. 15 pp.
Kemp, J., Hunter, C., Mosen, C., Elliott, G., 2016, unpublished. Draft: Kea population responses to aerial 1080 treatment in South Island landscapes. Department of Conservation, 14 pp.
Kemp, J., Mosen, C., Elliott, G., Hunter, C., 2018. Effects of the aerial application of 1080 to control pest mammals on kea reproductive success New Zealand Journal of Ecology 42: 158-168.
King, C., 1984. Immigrant Killers. Introduced Predators and the conservation of birds in New Zealand Oxford University Press. 224 pp.
King, C., 1990. Stoats. Pp. 288-312. In. C.M. King (Ed.). The Handbook of New Zealand Mammals. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
King, C. & Murphy, E., 2005. Stoat. Pp. 204-221. In. C.M. King (Ed). The Handbook of New Zealand Mammals (2nd Edition). Oxford University Press, Melbourne.
O’Donnell, C.F.J. & Hoare, J.M., 2012. Quantifying the benefits of long-term integrated pest control for forest bird populations in a New Zealand temperate rainforest. NZ Journal of Ecology 36: 131-140.
Orr-Walker , T., 2012. Nest Monitoring – Arthurs Pass. Nestor Notabilis 6: 12.
Pollard, J., 2017. Response to the Department of Conservation’s reply to “Aerial 1080 poisoning in New Zealand: reasons for concern”. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/313881837_Response_to_the_Department_of_Conservation%27s_reply_to_Aerial_1080_poisoning_in_New_Zealand_reasons_for_concern
Roberts, L., 2014. Population estimates of wild Kea (Nestor notabilis)
Roy, E.A., 2016. New Zealand kea, the world’s only alpine parrot, faces extinction
Smith, D., Jamieson, I.G., 2003. Movement, diet, and relative abundance of stoats in an alpine habitat. DoC Science Internal Series 107, 16 pp.
TbFree, formerly the Animal Health Board (AHB), explains:
“Despite having a very low human health risk now, bovine TB is still regarded as an unwanted disease in New Zealand because of the negative consumer perceptions and adverse market reactions it could generate. High levels of TB would also cause significant production losses for New Zealand farmers….
“Controlling possums helps to minimise the risk of the disease spreading within the possum population and to livestock. We know if we can keep the numbers low enough for long enough over large areas, we can eventually eradicate TB…
“Currently biodegradeable 1080 is the only control method that can be applied aerially. This means it can be used for quick and effective control in hard to access areas, or large tracts of land, where ground control is impractical” – Tb free website 2014
What do science and history say?
The Animal Health Board, now called TBFree, has no rational basis for using aerial 1080 poison to kill possums.
This was highlighted when the AHB applied in 2007 to continue aerial 1080 poisoning operations, to the Environmental Risk Management Authority:
“No research is cited in the Application that studies the dollar losses occurring from the loss of one or more export markets..Clough & Nixon (2000) conclude…a trade ban would be difficult to sustain under current international trade rules, the risk is very small and the expected value of an avoided trade ban is modest…
“The Application…fails to demonstrate evidence or understanding of economic research on use of 1080, pest control or Tb…this section of the application is unsophisticated, uses crude approaches to estimate even the largest benefits and costs associated with the use of 1080, lacks awareness of many pertinent economic research techniques, seems unaware of almost all relevant economic research.” – Professor Ross Cullen, Economic Expert advising the Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA), 2007
“around 3% of all human Tb cases are M. bovis…The Ministry of Health attributes these low rates to herd testing and the widespread pasteurisation of milk…
“even if bovine Tb were prevalent in cattle it would not present a real risk to human health…
”We recommend that in making its decisions, ERMA de-emphasise the importance of bovine Tb”. – NZ Health experts advising ERMA, 2007
“the applicants have provided little factual support to demonstrate efficacy of aerial compared with ground application of 1080 as it relates to possums and Tb control…
“the relative contributions of possums and other wildlife (particularly ferrets) to Tb infection of cattle and deer herds are not clearly defined at this time.” – ERMA Agency, 2007
“there is no evidence to support the suggestion that trade is significantly reduced by not having bovine Tb-free status.” – ERMA Committee, 2007
Localised, farm margin harvesting of all Tb-carrying species would be far more rational than broadscale 1080 poisoning, because
- Tuberculous possums are clustered in relatively small, stationary “hotspots”
- possums (both diseased and healthy) living in forests were found to only travel occasionally onto farm pastures, and none were found to move more than 1300m
“Tuberculosis possums were clustered in “hotspots” and identification and targeting of these high prevalence areas would make control of tuberculosis in wildlife more effective” – S. Norton et al., NZ Veterinary Journal, 2005
“The disease shows remarkable spatial clustering…that can persist over extended periods of time…despite intensive possum control efforts…methods for the future may include…identification of spatial determinants of “hotspots” to allow more targeted population control” – R. Jackson, NZ Veterinary Journal, 2002
“operations to reduce possum numbers in Tb-problem areas would need to encompass at least 1 km of forest adjacent to pasture….
“Where the problem is long-standing and the incidence of Tb in possums is high at the forest/pasture margin (>10%), infection may already be present in the deep forest (Cook & Coleman, 1975), and control may be required further (1-2km) into forest.” – W. Green & J. Coleman, NZ J. Ecology, 1986
- Tb is found in a wide range of wildlife, not just possums. The role of other wildlife in spreading and maintaining Tb infection is not very well known.
“…some deer species and ferrets may act as vectors of the disease, but their role in transmitting TB to livestock is unclear…
“Hedgehogs, pigs, cats, sheep and goats are now considered to be amplifier hosts, and spread the disease to other species only when inspected or their carcass scavenged.
“Tuberculosis has been recorded in a small number of stoats …Disease prevalences are unknown, and estimates of them are difficult, due to the rapid turnover of stoat populations and difficulty in trapping them…
“Tuberculosis has been identified in a limited number of feral goat populations, but none of them have been studied in detail.” – J. Coleman & M. Cooke, Tuberculosis, 2001
After a TbFree aerial poisoning operation, the carcasses of all animals are left for scavengers. This includes rats, stoats, ferrets and pigs, which can all catch and spread Tb:
“In endemic areas, rats have ample opportunity to inhale or ingest M. Bovis bacilli during their scavenging of infected carrion, and of transmitting Tb to other species when scavenged themselves.” – J. Coleman & M. Cooke, Tuberculosis, 2001
Feral ferrets (Mustela furo) and stoats (M. Erminea) are abundant in many regions of the country and are highly susceptible to infection with M. Bovis…the disease appears to be maintained by consumption of tuberculous carrion” – R. Jackson, NZ Veterinary Journal, 2002
“The interaction between pest species is poorly understood. For example, rodent numbers sometimes increase following possum control operations, which may lead to an increase in stoat populations” – G. Nugent et al., Kararehe Kino Vertebrate Pest Research, 2008
“our analysis which showed no decrease in ferret abundance at sites that have been subject to possum control” – S. Norton et al., NZ Veterinary Journal, 2005
“pathology indicates most pigs are infected by feeding on tuberculosis carrion…
“Pigs are wide ranging and often forage in large family groups so whole-group feeding on a single carcass may often amplify the number of infected animals.” – T. Ryan et al., Veterinary Microbiology, 2006
Recent documented evidence points to human error in spreading and monitoring Tb:
“Twelve percent of dairy herds have 500 or more animals…High prevalence breakdowns in such herds have occurred…Movements of animals in-and-out of such herds is a plausible cause, but “stress” leading to immune dysfunction probably also contributes.”
“In terms of TB in Northland, there are currently seven herds…which have tested positive. A high level of TB infection has been found in young stock and there has been movement of infected calves traced to a farm south of Kaitaia…response by TBfree NZ has included…wildlife surveys to assess infection in wild animals such as possums and wild pigs. To date, 47 pigs and 340 possums have been sampled from the Awanui area and no TB infection has been found in wild animals…TBfree NZ are still investigating…findings so far show that dairy cattle sales and stock movements are very complex”
“Dispose of dead stock properly…don’t allow wild animals such as pigs to access open offal pits – this could result in TB transfer to wildlife”
“Infected herds by type at July 2013:..These figures represent a significant increase in infected herds in the North Island but also a small increase in the South Island.”
“Compliance: at the time of this report there are 16 cattle herds 180+ days overdue for testing. This equates to 15 per cent of the national total for overdue tests. A number of these herd owners have been in discussions with the North Island Compliance Manager as they are unable to muster their stock or they have become feral…Unregistered herds are also of concern in the Northland Region.” – N. MacMillian, Northland Regional Council Environmental Management Committee Meeting Tabled Item 30/07/2014
“Tb Free New Zealand says recent cases of the disease in two herds in the Rangitata/Orari area of South Canterbury were a West Coast strain…
This confirms that the herds have become infected from bought-in TB infected cattle…
A wildlife “survey” in the area caught 996 possums, all of which tested free of the disease.” – A. Swallow, Rural News 2013
“With animal movement, in a study of cattle and deer in the Waikato district, it was found that only 10% of cattle herds were “closed”…
“Models of this “population” suggested that the “intensity of disease surveillance” has profound effects on the ability to reduce the number of infected herds (Barlow et al., 1998). As a result, surveillance intensity was increased, and there was a rapid reduction in herd prevalence…
“Accurately identifying all infected and non-infected animals is challenging…
“With M. Bovis infection, particular problems are an extended pre-clinical period, some animals being unable to mount a normal immune response, and waning of cellular immunity after prolonged infection” – T. Ryan et al., Veterinary Microbiology, 2006
Whereas it is not even known how a possum would give Tb to a cow!
“The mode of transmission between possums and livestock is poorly understood and difficult to study. However, dominant cattle and deer have been observed to approach semi-sedated (“sick”) possums, and sniff and mouth them. – J. Coleman & M. Cooke, Tuberculosis, 2001
“Possum-to-cattle transmission is thought to occur when cattle investigate disorientated, diseased possums wandering in pastures close to their bush habitats (R.S. Morris, pers. Commun.) – N. Barlow, Trends in Microbiology, 1985
Final word from science and history- advice unheeded
“This Council recognises the seriousness of outbreaks of tuberculosis in cattle, but urges that the enormous injection of funds into eradication programmes and the large expenditure on control programmes be matched by the provision of adequate resources for further research…
“the cumulative evidence of bird deaths is sufficiently reliable to indicate that there are significant effects on non-target organisms…
“the Council recommends that methods be developed for the disposal of unused baits and poisoned carcasses and that the Crown be bound…
“The Council recommends that the use of 1080 should not be permitted in any significant wildlife area or reserve and especially in takahe/kakapo areas, forest sanctuaries, biological reserves and national parks…
“this Council recommends that appropriate preliminary justification and thorough monitoring processes be a pre-requisite for further 1080 operations…
“control operations utilising 1080 may induce bait shyness, are only temporarily effective, and often create favourable conditions for noxious animals by reducing competition, and releasing nesting sites and feeding areas” – NZ Nature Conservation Council, 1977
To monitor effects of 1080 poisoning, Kea are harrassed during nesting and year round. Many wear backpacks with transmitters.
Quotes on Harrassment:
“The interests of the bird come first. Birds respond to people in many ways, depending on the species, location and time of year. Disturbance can keep birds from their nests, leaving chicks hungry or enabling predators to take eggs or young…
“Intentional or reckless disturbance of some species at or near the nest is illegal in Britain…
“Disturbance is not just about going too close – a flock of wading birds on the foreshore can be disturbed from a mile away if you stand on the sea wall…
“Repeatedly playing a recording of birdsong or calls to encourage a bird to respond can divert a territorial bird from other important duties, such as feeding its young. Never use playback to attract a species during its breeding season.” – Association of County Recorders and Editors, 2014
“Do not approach nests when young are close to fledging: When the young are disturbed during this stage, they may leave the nest prematurely. Young that fledge prematurely usually do not stay in the nest prematurely despite attempts to put them back, and their survival rates away from or outside the nest are low. So when young birds are fully feathered and very alert, only observe the nest from a distance…
Be wary of nest predators. Avoid leaving tracks that can direct predators to nests. Nest predators are everywhere- on the ground, in vegetation, and in the air- and many are smart enough to watch you…
Also try not to damage or trample vegetation that could expose nests”- Cornell University Lab of Ornithology 2011
“visiting nests to check the contents necessarily results in disturbance of the individuals being studied. Moreover, investigator disturbance may increase the probability of nest predation (Elser and Grand 1993), human scent (Whelan et al. 1994), or nest markers (Picozzi 1995, Yahner and Wright 1985). Human disturbance may also reduce nest attendance or enhance conspicuous behaviour of the parents.” – N. Verboven et al., The Auk, 2001
“One potential nest cavity was visited and there was an attempt to catch the female who was perched close to the site….Four fledglings were caught and transmitters attached…There was quite significant kea activity at the top of the Gibbs track with at least six unbanded birds…Attempts were made to catch as many of these as possible with one team devoting two nights to this task. – C. Mosen, Nestor Notabilis 6, 2014
“When we were checking the nest, I got to crawl inside. It was really interesting, as the cavity was a lot different to what I expected! It was long- I crawled more than my whole body length in – and it was narrow! I had to go in a bit like superman with my arms out in front of me…
“Tomorrow, we were heading to the Hawdon Valley to check on a couple of nests and put bands and transmitters on some chicks- can’t wait!…
“to our surprise, there was a wee chick there! I say wee but he weighed over 1000g. Cory got him out and we weighed, banded, took bloods and feathers and measured him. We attached a satellite transmitter as part of Erin’s work….
“We had heard from someone that they had been near the hut and heard a Kea vocalising a lot, in a way which made Cory think maybe there is a nest up there. So out we went with some kea calls and a telemetry aerial to see if we could find any kea out there. While we were there, we also checked another old nest. Unfortunately we didn’t find anything”. – Sarah, Wellington Zoo website 2012
“Kea monitoring requires specialist skills, involving capture of kea and tagging them with VHF radio transmitters weeks or months before poison baiting. Telemetry surveys are
carried out during the risk period following the operation, on foot and from aircraft.”
– DOC Code of Practice for Aerial 1080 in Kea Habitat, 2014
“7 paired field researchers/observers per site will survey a minimum of 4 ridges each…
“over an 8 day period in mid-January. This will be timed to co-incide with fledglings leaving the nest…
“capture and band all kea where possible. Associated with satellite and radio tracking of individual birds, banding will be used…
“collection and storage of blood samples at the time of capture will provide samples for other organisations…
Each paired group of researchers must therefore have combined experience in trapping, banding, blood collection and storage, and attachment of tracking equipment.”- L. Roberts, Academia 2014
“The number of experienced kea handlers has increased in recent years due to the corresponding increase in kea conservation work. The number of personnel with competent bird handling skills has made it easier to recruit EBHs each year” – P. Van Klink, Nestor Notabilis 6, 2014
“Corey Mosen revisited our survey nest sites during October and November. Here’s a quick comparison of each of the nests sites from his first visits in August/Sept…Nelson Lakes…2 nests now have 3 chicks total. Beryls nest has failed (with the loss of 2 chicks and one egg), Queen Pow Pow’s nest has been reduced from 3 chicks to two chicks and How’s nest has reduced from 1 chick and 1 egg to 1 egg and 1 chick. Pest visitation seems to be the main factor for nest failure.” – T. Orr-Walker, Kea Conservation Trust Newsletter, 2014
[Ruru] “Although radio-tagged birds are able to provide extremely robust information on the direct impact of toxins such as 1080…this technique is limited to those species that are able to carry a transmitter…
“34 ruru were captured and radio-tagged…only 11 were known to be alive at the time of the poison operation, due to transmitter failure, predation, and 18 birds dying during a prolonged period of extremely cold weather 2 weeks prior to the operation…
Use of ‘backpack’-type harnesses…for…kereru has been restricted by the Department of Conservation following concerns over instances of harness entanglement and resultant deaths” – T.C. Green et al., NZ J. Ecology 2013
[Saddleback] “Ten birds had tail-mounted transmitters attached and were monitored weekly. Two weeks after release, four transmittered saddleback were found dead following a week of extremely cold southerlies which brought snow to the higher parts of Boundary Stream.
Necropsies of two birds found they died of aspergillosis, a common fungal disease that can become fatal when the bird is under stress. One bird had a broken neck, but mammalian predation was ruled out. The fourth bird was too decomposed to necropsy, but no obvious signs of predation were found.
A survey six weeks after release estimated 21 birds present, giving a 57% minimum survival rate. There are five known pairs that are courtship feeding, but none are known to have attempted to nest.” – DoC Rare Bits Newsletter, 2004
[Whio] “Survivors from last year’s release are still encountered, but the birds had transmitters removed because of weight loss problems” – DoC Rare Bits Newsletter, 2000
“The 2011 Kea Summer Survey field work was completed by an enthusiastic team of 40 experienced kea handlers…
“Both areas are integral to a larger population research project which has been run annually for three years in Nelson-Lakes (2009-2011) and four years in Arthurs Pass (2009-2012). This census work aims to establish the density and stability of kea populations in a number of key areas which are subject to different pest management regimes. The nest monitoring and tracking project will provide crucial supporting information.” – T. Orr-Walker, Nestor Notabilis, 2012
“At the start of the 2011 season there were twenty-one kea radio tagged in the Hawdon valley, Arthurs Pass, to be monitored.
Six transmitters were found to be in mortality mode (4 of which were adult breeding females). The loss of these birds significantly reduces the possible sample size of nests to monitor. Additionally, nine transmittered birds remained unaccounted for resulting in only six kea able to be followed.
“Three of these kea are adult females of which only one has been identified as attempting to breed (Queen Pow Pow). The other two females showed no indication of having active cavities or notable courtship or nesting behaviour. Nest cameras set up at the Queen Pow Pow’s nest showed that this nest was abandoned with an egg intact and this pair moved to another nest site which also did not produce chicks.
“Information gleaned from this nesting season appears to indicate that the high number of deaths of both adult and sub-adult birds may now be affecting productivity.
“A case in point is the late 2010 nesting by Mrs Moon (one chick fledged at the end of April 2011). Mrs Moon died one month later on 8 June 2011.” – T. Orr-Walker, Nestor Notabilis, 2012
“a light aircraft was used to radio track birds…Seven kea are present radio tagged in Nelson lakes- ….The three identified breeding pairs…were followed and their nest cavities identified. Out of a seven possible nest sites, three cavities were confirmed by September 2011. Cameras were set up inside and outside each nest area and images taken throughout the breeding season. Only one of the breeding pairs, Ceejay and Kelly, successfully fledged chicks as follows: Nest site 3 successfully fledged three chicks early in December 2011; Nest site 26 most likely failed due to possum predation; Nest Site 8 was found to be infertile. Unfortunately, Kelly, Ceejay’s mate, was recovered dead during the nesting period (necropsy report cause of “sudden death” -unknown)” – T. Orr-Walker, Nestor Notabilis 2012
“This research at two of the three kea summer survey sites aims to support the summer population research by following up on tracking of radio tagged kea at each of the sites and check the status of known nests throughout the breeding season.” – Kea Conservation Trust, 2011
“We stopped regularly while Franny and Brent released their pre-recorded birdsong on the jungle…
The kea was then “processed”, you know, like processed food. Out of Franny’s bag of tricks came a radiotransmitter, with nylon string to attach it, a beak-measuring device, scales and other fandangos…
Oh yeah, I was going to talk about 1080 and keas. Well the story as far as I can make out is that despite years of scepticism from DOC scientists, recent studies of mortality following an aerial 1080 drop have shown keas dying from 1080 poisoning…
One point it is always worth making is that much of the 1080 poisoning in NZ is undertaken by the Animal Health Board in its ongoing battle with TB…But whatever way this does seem to be a big problem…
Alarm bells seem to be ringing and DOC has teamed up with Landcare Research to investigate an effective bird repellent. It will be interesting to see what happens and if the planned drop in Okarito forest goes ahead” – J. Stewart, Blog, 2009
“During the breeding season (July-January) we repeatedly searched for every radio-tagged adult in our study until we found its nest, were confident it was not nesting, found its body, or concluded it had migrated out of our study area…Once it was found, we checked each nest every 2-3 weeks until it either failed or the chicks had fledged…
“We radio-tagged eleven near-fledgling chicks during three summers of our study and in three subsequent summers we flew at 2500-3500 m, in a radio-telemetry equipped fixed wing aircraft over all forested mountains within a 50-km radius of the nests.
Following the flight, we visited all of the birds on foot to see if they were alive. We assumed the birds we could not find from the air had migrated out of our search area…
“We captured and radio-tagged 39 kea which we monitored for an average of 2.5 years each. We found 44 nests in 25 sites and were able to assess the nesting success of 40 of them.”
“Eggs and chicks disappeared from 35% of the nests we monitored and at two of these nests definite sign of stoat predation was found” – G. Elliot & J. Kemp, NZ Dept of Conservation Internal Science Series, 2004
“when in the open on a river flat or above the bush line they carefully watch any large bird flying high above. To do this it is necessary for them to twist the head sideways and while in this stance all the Kea’s attention is occupied…
“The large number of band injuries were caused not by the band being put on improperly but because a band prevents normal swelling of the leg, following a foot injury.” – J. Jackson, Notornis, 1969
“At least three of my seventeen nests with chicks have been discovered by falcons…The parents chase the falcons away. Also visiting Kea are very interested in the nestlings and the parents drive them away from the last five yards of the nest with much noise. I suspect that visiting Keas destroyed the young chicks two or three weeks old in one nest…
“Some hens, if the observer sits on their promontory while they are nesting, get very excited. They fly in a zig-zag flight close over or around under the promontory, swing out 100 yards on either side and call loudly all the time, perhaps a quarter of an hour. The cock during this display remains further back…
“Many of the young cocks do not remain mated to their wives. He moves on but the hen remains, using the nest for her life…
“Other less successful hens fail to mate in their second year. Such a hen often sends much time with a hen busy building. It is possible that the young hen learns much from watching the old hen closely.” – J. Jackson, Notornis, 1963
“July: Heavy falls of snow cover much ground and Keas feed in the forest and on the forest floor. First eggs laid…
October: Peak of laying. Adults very shy and quiet” – J. Jackson, Notornis, 1960
Please help save the kea from poisoning, harassment and harnesses
“…once in the air they play. The chick dives at her like a falcon. She rolls over and parries the blow. Then the tables are turned. They play in the gusts of a storm, swing around a spur, plunge down into the shelter of a gully and back into the wind on the turbulent air.” – J. Jackson, Notornis 1963
Playing with these big parrots, in car parks and at ski fields, is one of the best experiences NZ has to offer animal lovers. But the kea’s home, the alpine herb fields and rainforests of southern NZ, will be poisoned by the Government very soon:
“In the South Island, 23 pest control operations, covering approximately 700,000 ha of beech forest, are planned for the coming late winter and spring” – National Pest Control Agencies 2014
Cinnamon-flavoured, cereal food pellets will be spread from the air, twice. The first time they will be just flavoured cereal. The second time, they will contain deadly 1080 poison. Kea will eat the cereal baits and die. They will also be poisoned if they drink from ponds and alpine tarns where the baits lie, or scavenge poisoned carcasses or eat the dying insects surrounding the poisonous baits. It was first recognised that the government’s poisonings were killing kea in 1963.
In 2008, government monitoring of the kea began. The monitoring showed that large numbers of kea were dying.
“A total of 150 kea were monitored and 20 keas deaths resulted from consuming 1080…It is also possible that kea deaths were not detected at the other sites due to small sample size.” – DOC Code of Practice for Aerial 1080 in Kea Habitat, 2014
At one site (North Okarito) 77% of the monitored kea died. 1080 poisoning is very cruel. It causes extreme spasms and vomiting, with suffering for many hours or days.
In 2014, the poisoned baits are to be spread
- In midwinter (before 31st Aug), when the birds are hungry, and
- further up the mountains into the alpine herb and tussock fields
“The ‘performance standards to reduce kea deaths’ no longer include a standard to avoid sowing open areas above the tree line…
we are planning to sow 0.15% 1080 Pellets in some open alpine areas to protect rock wren” – DOC Code of Practice for Aerial 1080 in Kea Habitat, 2014
No bird repellent will be used. No repellent has been successful so far.
PUBLISHED BY THE GREYMOUTH STAR
Any true scientist would be intensely annoyed to see wishful thinking and casual observations (rather than properly replicated experiments with appropriate controls) masquerading as science, especially when lots of people actually believed in it. Quinn Whiting-O’Keefe is a true scientist. In the film Poisoning Paradise he is so incensed at the lack of science and fact underlying 1080 poison use in NZ his words are like steam escaping. The same feelings led me to 2 years of reading and tapping furiously away at a keyboard to expose the facts on 1080 poison, as given to our Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) for their review in 2007. Here they are:
1080 is toxic to species of all forms of life from microbes to plants, insects, birds and humans. In mammals, it causes birth defects, reduced fertility, damage to reproductive organs and other organs including the brain and heart. Anecdotal reports indicate there may also be a link with cancer but there has been no research at all on this. Claims that 1080 poison does not cause mutations arise from a study on mice, that ERMA was unable to get a full copy of.
1080 has an amazing ability to spread. Again and again in research, “control” samples have become accidentally contaminated. Because 1080 poison is highly soluble it spreads very fast in water and also up food chains. For example, researchers found 100% mortality of aphids on broad bean plants grown in 0.00005% 1080 solution. Likewise, 1080 has been shown to pass readily into milk and meat.
When 1080 poisoned cereal pellets are dropped from the air, the poison in cereal dust is found over the entire treated area and beyond. Very little is known about the spread of this toxic dust but it was found 1 km beyond the application zone 5 days after an aerial 1080 drop (sampling for dust further away, and later after the drop, was not carried out).
There has been no research into how long 1080 poison persists in treated areas. In the ERMA documents it was recognised that it might persist indefinitely at low concentrations. It has been found to persist in many varied situations including dry places, cool water, water lacking aquatic plants, some types of soil and in carcasses. The rate of breakdown of 1080 poison in New Zealand forests and streams is unknown, but it is extremely slow at around 5oC. Thus ERMA’s Agency warned that “No studies have been conducted using standard international guidelines to assess the route and rate of degradation of 1080 in soil. The rate of such degradation under New Zealand conditions is uncertain.” And regarding water: ”Overall, the relevance of the aquatic plant/water studies to the degradation of 1080 in water in NZ is not clear.”
In the ERMA review, there was no consideration of effects of breakdown products which include highly toxic fluorocitrate.
The ERMA review also brought to light that, among several unexpected properties of 1080 poison, degradation occurred in biological samples stored at -20oC, meaning that most results from water and soil sampling to date are useless because storage conditions were either not reported or were not adequate.
Birds reported killed by 1080 poisoned cereal baits include morepork, weka, tomtits and grey warbler and animals known to eat cereal bait include kea, kaka, little spotted kiwi, kokako, saddleback, kakariki, pukeko, insects, koura and lizards. DoC’s reporting on bird deaths cannot be relied upon. Their usual method of assessing bird numbers, 5 minute counts, were acknowledged as useless by ERMA’s Agency who reported that “Five-minute counts have been identified as not reliable for assessing population impacts after 1080 operations unless high mortality occurs..and not reliable for rarer species”.
It was recognised in the ERMA review that certain species (survivors that are fastest to breed and disperse within the vacant habitat) will be most likely to recover after aerial 1080 poisoning. This will apply not just to birds but all organisms including invertebrates (“1080 is highly toxic to terrestrial invertebrates” – ERMA’s Agency) which are an integral part of food chains and nutrient recycling. Thus ecological effects of the poisoning will be far-reaching and favour rapidly colonising species.
Not surprisingly then, 1080 poison is now clearly associated with plagues of pests including stoats, rats and mice, that have devastating effects on native species. For example, a DoC employee reported in 2002: “Four months after an effective possum and rat knock-down by a 20,000-ha aerial 1080 operation over Tongariro Forest, stoats reappeared in the centre of the forest and began killing kiwi chicks. So far five of the 11 chicks have been predated, and all in the centre of the treatment area.” Closer to home, a West Coast DoC employee reported on kaka in 2003 “A dramatic increase in fledgling mortality has been noted coinciding with a change to the pest control regime. Seventeen female chicks were monitored since the breeding season and excluding missing birds, eleven of fourteen fledglings have died. Nine of these were probably (some certainly) killed by stoats..The pest control regime was an aerial 1080 pollard operation in October .” Going on to report on rowi: ”The current rowi breeding season has been very disappointing. All 14 of the monitored chicks were dead by early January, with stoat predation being the major cause..a huge irruption of rats and stoats, coincided with the height of the rowi breeding season.. Stoats completely saturated the core area during December and January..Similarly, rat numbers were 5-10 times higher this season compared with the same time last season.” (West Coast, April 2003).
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. New, unique species are still being discovered regularly, making nonsense of claims that DoC knows what its doing with aerially spread poisons. DoC’s legal duty under the Conservation Act is to manage natural resources for conservation purposes so their willingness to allow the killing of massive numbers of native animals is nothing short of criminal.
Contrary to DoC’s scaremongering about possums preying on birds, numerous studies have shown that possums are principally herbivores. Where possums are currently invading new areas and decimating favoured plants such as mistletoe, it would make sense to target them there, using humane, safe techniques such as hunting, live traps, and well-designed kill traps. I have operated a natural pet food business for the last 6 years and the demand for the raw product has been escalating as the world becomes increasingly short of animal protein, and as Asian pet ownership increases dramatically. The Asian markets for natural NZ pet food are insatiable and it makes sense to employ hunters and use pests as a resource rather than squander our 200 million-year-old natural heritage.
Like DoC, the Animal Health Board has no rational basis for using aerial 1080 poison to kill possums. Its arguments were left in tatters in the ERMA review. Firstly, the RTCI, the possum catch index that underlies the AHB’s strategy, was deemed unreliable (Agency, Appendix F). Then both economic experts got stuck in. Professor Ross Cullen, regarding market perceptions of NZ’s Tb status: “No research is cited in the Application that studies the dollar losses occurring from the loss of one or more export markets..Clough & Nixon (2000) conclude…a trade ban would be difficult to sustain under current international trade rules, the risk is very small and the expected value of an avoided trade ban is modest” and “The Application…fails to demonstrate evidence or understanding of economic research on use of 1080, pest control or Tb…this section of the application is unsophisticated, uses crude approaches to estimate even the largest benefits and costs associated with the use of 1080, lacks awareness of many pertinent economic research techniques, seems unaware of almost all relevant economic research.” And from NZ health experts: “around 3% of all human Tb cases are M. bovis…The Ministry of Health attributes these low rates to herd testing and the widespread pasteurisation of milk”…“even if bovine Tb were prevalent in cattle it would not present a real risk to human health”…”We recommend that in making its decisions, ERMA de-emphasise the importance of bovine Tb”. Then from ERMA’s Agency: “the applicants have provided little factual support to demonstrate efficacy of aerial compared with ground application of 1080 as it relates to possums and Tb control”…”the relative contributions of possums and other wildlife (particularly ferrets) to Tb infection of cattle and deer herds are not clearly defined at this time.” And finally, from the ERMA Committee itself: “there is no evidence to support the suggestion that trade is significantly reduced by not having bovine Tb-free status.”
Since there are now relatively few Tb-infected farms (due to amalgamation of farms, herd testing and movement control) a relatively cheap, harmless and effective approach to prevent livestock becoming infected by wildlife would be to control pests only around farm boundaries. In this way Tb-infected wildlife (which may include pigs, cats, hedgehogs, ferrets, stoats, weasels, rats, deer and feral stock) could be identified, the livestock would be protected, and the vacant habitat created as pests were eliminated would draw further potential Tb vectors out of wild areas for elimination. Additionally, livestock can be vaccinated against Tb.
If stupidity prevails and another aerial 1080 poison operation goes ahead, some minimum controls are imperative. An untreated buffer zone of at least 1 km should be allowed around any catchment used for human or stock drinking water, taking care that all tributaries are identified. In addition, environmental effects must be monitored. Last year, our Conservation Authority recommended that the Government require the Animal Health Board to begin monitoring for changes in forest health. Any such monitoring must be comprehensive, competent and independent. History tells us that left to DoC or the AHB, the results would be frustratingly inadequate.