A Wildlife Disaster Taking Place – Bird Expert

Blast From the Past


In 2017 Tross Publishing published “The Quiet Forest – The Case Against Aerial 1080”, written by Fiona McQueen. Fiona McQueen (MbChB,MD,FRACP) graduated from the University of Otago in medicine in 1980 and worked as a consultant rheumatologist within the NZ public health system. She has had a distinguished international academic career.

In her book, she told of an interview (2016) with wildlife expert the late Don Merton.

Wikepedia says “until his retirement in April 2005, Don Merton was a senior member of the Department of Conservation’s Threatened Species Section, within the Research, Development & Improvement Division, Terrestrial Conservation Unit, and of the Kakapo Management Group. He had a long involvement in wildlife conservation, specialised in the management of endangered species since he completed a traineeship with the New Zealand Wildlife Service (NZWS) in 1960.

Don Merton is credited with saving the kakapo, the Chatham Island black robin and other native New Zealand birds from extinction. Forest and Bird said “He was a guru of the conservation movement.”
He began ground-breaking work rescuing the Chatham Island black robin and kakapo from extinction in the 1970s, at which point just five robins remained, including a single successful breeding pair. Don Merton used innovative ideas, including cross-fostering with other bird species to save the robin.


Extracts from the interview are:-

Don Merton:– The first lot of 1080 they put in the Arawhata in the 1980s -Waipara branch. The area was always bad for keas. They were lots of them. After that first big 1080 drop – well there were very few keas from then on. It tells you something.

I didn’t actually see any dead keas but of course you realise that no one its ever going to see dead ones unless you have beacons on them.

Have you ever discussed this with others working in the bush?

Don Merton:- I have talked to a number of people including Department of Conservation people. One guy told me, after they did a poison drop, three or four days later, a DOC team would go in to count the dead rats, mice, stoats and possums. There was nothing on the form to document bird deaths. I asked if they saw dead birds and he said, “Yeah, yeah, we found a lot of dead birds” but there wasn’t anywhere to record that.

The DOC guys just have to toe the line – otherwise they will lose their jobs.

Have you seen the effects off 1080 on deer?

Don Merton:- Yes. I have flown helicopters all around the upper Queenstown Lakes district and it was not uncommon to see 20 whitetail deer in the Rockburn, Beansburn area before they started poisoning the Dart Valley. (The Rockburn and Beansburn are tributaries of the Dart) Not long after that, I saw only two whitetail – before the 1080 drops we would see up to 30.

What about export markets for wild deer? Are they affected by 1080?

Absolutely! You can see wild deer overseas but there are stringent criteria set out to prevent poisoned deer getting out to the market.

I just heard from a friend involved in tunnel monitoring (recording paw prints of rats, mice and stoats to indicate population levels) in the Clark and Waipara valleys  – they found evidence of very few animals on the tunnel pads.

Guess what! They have just poisoned these valleys again.

This is a national tragedy – on an unprecedented scale.

It’s hard to believe our senior politicians could get sucked in by so much bull shit.

What about pest control?

I agree 100 percent that rats and stoats are a serious problem but it’s questionable whether 1080 is ever going to work long term – and I think it’s doing major damage in the short term. But do you think we are going to get rats out of all New Zealand?

Anything else?

I started to look at it in my own mind. We could be doing more damage than good.

And DOC will not listen – they have got their own agenda.

I don’t like the dishonesty and twisting of information.

It’s an orchestrated litany of lies.

They have decided what they are going to do and they just do it.

All this ‘public consultation’ – it’s rubbish.

I’ve had a good life but I am watching a disaster taking place.

My prediction is that the kea and a lot of bird life in regions which have been 1080-ed – well they are already endangered – we will lose them all.


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9 Responses to A Wildlife Disaster Taking Place – Bird Expert

  1. Teddy Roosterveldt says:

    Clean Green New Zealand……Yeah, right. A national disgrace more like.

  2. Jack Tuhawaiki says:

    When a man of Don Merton’s integrity and expertise speaks up about the Department of Conservation’s own agenda, its illogic and failure to listen then something is seriously amiss within the bowels of bureaucracy. His telling summation of “it’s hard to believe our senior politicians could get sucked in by so much bullshit” should wake up the incoming government to do a serious, independent, credible review of both 1080 poison and the Department of Conservation.

  3. Lew says:

    The poisoners can’t be so stupid as to not know the damage being done to bird and insect life, it is a cheap easy way to get rid of deer but there has to be other reasons to make the idiots carry on trying to extinct some bird species such as kea.

  4. Tim Neville says:

    As a conservationist myself I have looked up to Don for years. He is no fool. Anybody who ignores his comments is either up to something devious or a fool. The cynic in me believes that the people profiting from the distribution of 1080 are its strongest supporters. It creates their jobs.

  5. Hey Kiwis a Third Former could work out that with our Native Birds Nests facing UPWARDS in the Bush Canopy ? When bombed from the air with Toxic Bait ! it would be caught in the Nests >> left high & dry , taking ages to break down , Native Birds & their Chicks either have to chuck the Bait out ? or bloody EAT IT !!! Has the Penny Dropped now ?

  6. Paul Peychers says:

    I agree a creditable review of 1080 operations would be a good move for the incoming government. DoC has become too powerful on poisoning as time has moved on, totally ignoring genuine concerns from concerned citizens.

  7. Tony Orman says:

    And ignoring reality and science.
    Wendy Ruscoe’s study in 2007 (Landcare Research) showed after 1080 that the rats that survive a 1080 aerial drop – about 15% – start to increase in numbers and spiral upwards until at about 3 to 4 year stage, rat numbers are three to four times original numbers.
    Other studies show the same.
    That is why DOC will have to go back in about 4 years time to attend to the rat explosion
    that was created by their poison drop.
    Besides that DOC’s (and OSPRI’s) poison drops annihilated birds and insects (1080 is an insecticide) depriving insectivorous birds of food.
    The new government should be running an independent, enquiry into 1080 and brodifacoum (even much worse than 1080) – not a farcical enquiry like the ERMA ‘kangaroo court’ one in 2007.

  8. Laurie Collins says:

    In the early 1960s the New Zaland Forest Service were fully aware that aerial 1080 was having a huge effect on native bird life. In 1962 after an aerial 1080 carrot drop in the central North Island, I was handed a bunch of plastic bags and told to walk the track and pick up dead birds, I remained in the New Zealand forestery service for a number of years after that. The use of 1080 poison has esculated beyond belief, since DOC took over and they have to be stopped. And finally we can but hope that the incoming government will start talking to people on the true effects of widespread 1080 poison.

    • Like Laurie I used 1080 Back in the day working for the old Marlborough Pest Destruction Board and am certain, there must be a better way forward. //// The Cook Islands are Light Years ahead of Main Land N.Z. with Pest Control ? They used a Reward System to save their Native Lorriket ! We must do the SAME to save our Native Birds & DoC must stop harking back to the FAILED Bounty Farm Scams of the 1950s , there is a modern method of Pest Control ?> An” Incentive Scheme” where the the pay goes UP as Pest Numbers DROP ? to Keep the Trappers KEEN !! We must start with Stoats , as they are a >>>>>
      “SUPER PREDATOR” , related to Otters they can swim & tolerate very Cold Conditions , can clime ( unlike Ferrets ) & use a number of smart tricks to snatch our Birds , like jumping up & down, rolling around ! & Hypnosis ? & change colour in winter ( Ermine ), although I’ve never seen a pure white Stoat in NZ , just with white patches , that is bloody good Camo . //// Incentive Scheme could be crowd funded , with Kiwis mailing in $2o / $50 Dollar notes or what they can afford , for Stoat Destruction work to be carried out on all “NON” DoC Estate ? For two reasons > To Stop Stoats constantly moving onto their cleaned up Country . > & Save upsetting DoC Staff with their very heavy handed 1080 Operations Etc ./// 2050 much too far away to become Pest Free ! we must short circuit the present system, as we will loose many more of our greatest Tourist Asset ? our Native Birds .

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