Forest and Bird “Wacky” Blaming of Wild Animals

Opinion by David Haynes of Nelson

Introduction: On June 18, 2021 “Stuff” ran a Forest and Bird article entitled “Culling Pests Could Slash Carbon Output”. The “pests” included “deer, possums, goats, feral pigs and other invasive animals”. Forest and Bird argued culling these “pests” would allow native forests to recover to a point where they would suck in 15 percent of NZ’;s yearly greenhouse gas emissions.
According to Forest & Bird’s recent report introduced mammals are responsible for preventing 3.4M tonnes of CO2 from being sequestered by trees each year.  Really?
As a former research chemist in the UK, my team’s philosophy was always to challenge most things but validate everything.  Applying this to Forest & Bird’s Protecting Our Natural Ecosystems’ Carbon Report,  as ever, the devil is always in the detail and when you look under the bonnet of the report, there is some engine trouble .
The report contains multiple, uncorroborated statements which unfortunately weakens its scientific rigour.  For example, in respect of loss of stored carbon in some forest types, the report states “… The most likely cause of this decline was the impact of introduced herbivores.”
Most likely?   Were other potential determinants (age, declining rate of growth, nutrient availability, drought, flood, windfall, fires, earthquakes, etc) identified or quantified, and if not, why not?
And statements like “The rapid growth of riparian shrubs and trees after flooding has been suppressed by deer.” Begs the question ‘just flooding in particular?’ Without evidence or citations such statements leave the report flapping rather limply in the air.
The foundation of the report rests on estimates of the number of deer, goats, pigs, etc. – something that a number of NZ scientists, such as Graham Nugent, have for decades been trying, and largely failing, to nail down.  Given our terrain, size of country, the mobility and population dynamics of mammals and the fact they are good at hiding makes it a very, very, very hard thing, nay, impossible thing to do. 
The Forest & Bird report takes estimates of ‘introduced pests’ (an emotional, not scientific term) from thirty years ago and simply increases them without explanation, calculation or rationale.  Put simply the figures are plucked out of thin air.  The whole argument that introduced mammals are causing climate change is thus posited on one table of randomly created numbers.
This report is not alone in this respect.  Paid output-directed science (‘we are concerned about this, can you confirm it please’), like the expert scientific witnesses in an Environment Court, involve some degree of conflict:  Do you be totally factual and risk not meeting the client’s expectations (and not getting paid), or do you be more selective in your data sets at the expense of less scientific rigour?  Commercial and scientific imperatives are poor bedfellows.
Unfortunately, the report also adopts a silo-based approach to a problem, rather than the more contemporary inter-dependent paradigm of modern science.  For example, if game animals were exterminated, the 51,000 (yes, I do have a citation for this figure) hunters who eat their quarry would need an alternative meat source –more supermarket construction and more farmed meat production or import, all of which have a considerable carbon footprints.  In 2018, the Food and Agriculture Organisation calculated that animal based food production accounts for 18% of greenhouse gases globally.
Compared to deer, goats, possums and the other culprits identified by Forest and Bird, there is of course another species that produces the vast majority of the planet’s greenhouse gases, pollutes rivers and oceans, deforests millions of hectares of rainforests, causes millions of tonnes of soil to be lost and produces non-biodegradable waste at ever increasing volumes, but we don’t hear Forest & Bird calling for their extermination….yet!
David Haynes is a former research chemist, information technology analyst and investment manager.  Now retired he spends his time working with advocacy groups to protect and enhance our outdoors environment and the recreational and health opportunities it provides to hunters and anglers.

© Red deer hind and youngster 

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8 Responses to Forest and Bird “Wacky” Blaming of Wild Animals

  1. Honest Dave says:

    I see twigg & tweet are spreading their propaganda AGAIN!!!!
    Aided & abetted by their financiers at the Dept of Corruption ( DOC ).


    And these tree hugging turkeys want to blame our lovely cuddly wildlife for supposed damage to our beautiful bush.?????

    Could there be a DOC/twigg & tweet hidden agenda to their repetitive propaganda campaigns???

    Just asking,eh???

    • Honest Dave says:

      Dave here with an add-on.

      Bill Benfield’s book ” The third wave” clearly illustrates how the
      Moa modified our native forests with their browsing, Ranging from knee high to over 5-6 meters tall the moa browsed vegetation to the point that the Haast
      Eagle ( the world’s largest eagle) could fly right through the trees without
      clipping the trees with it’s wings. THAT is a browsed forest!!!!!
      I don’t think any animal introduced to NZ has ever browsed to that extent.
      AND the forests adapted to the moa’s browsing by adapting itself.

      So: what exactly IS the problem?????

  2. Justice Will B. Dunn. says:

    Ugh, surely the greatest introduced pest and preventers of forest regrowth in NZ are… us! That and the domestic animals we introduced on to the land that formerly was bush. What would F&B have us do about it then – abandon farming perhaps and reforest the whenua? Wonderful sentiment but that won’t pay the rent.

  3. Nicholas Lorenz says:

    The original “Stuff” article was typically unbalanced with journalist using emotive words like “invasive” (pests) and making no effort apparently to seek a counter view.
    Half the problem is poor media just repeating without question, the utterances by the likes of DOC and Forest and Bird.

  4. Tony Orman says:

    The Forest and Bird irrational outburst reminds me in 2007 the Department of Conservation’s director-general Al Morrison, bizarrely blamed wild deer for farting and belching. They need to be exterminated he ranted.
    Animals are an easy target. They cannot argue back in defence, but people can. The reason? Deer and cows do not vote but people do. Yet it is people that are the cause of the problem – or more particularly numbers of people. 
    People fart and belch just like cows and deer. Furthermore people drive cars which belch emissions and jet planes fart “gases and particles — which contribute to climate change.” Humans demand resources, flush toilets, use chemicals and throw away garbage. Deer, sheep and cattle don’t.

  5. Rob Travers says:

    Well spoken David Haynes.
    Forest and Bird imply fail to recognise the problem is not global warming but is an environmental one caused by the short sighted pursuit of growth for growth’s sake. Four hundred years of relentlessly exploitative, extractive, and exponentially growth. This should be no surprise if Forest and Bird stopped their zealotry and thought. The seductive promise of endless growth to the unthinking, has grasped supposedly civilised people by the collective throat, and led it to increasing population numbers beyond all reason. People and population is the key – not blaming wild animals.
    Does Forest and Bird stop to wonder whether six million moa farted and pooped?
    C’mon Forest and Bird you make yourself look so wacky by stupid ideology.

  6. Wayne Mackie says:

    I personally think the Twigg and Tweet hugging brigade are just a bunch of looneys promoting DOC’s propaganda of a pest free NZ by 2050 which is never going to happen in a million years, No matter how many tons of 1080 poison they are polluting our treasured NZ Native bush and Reserves with. People, Vehicle/Airplanes, Any Mechanical fuel powered motors, Power companies coal burning generators are the problem not wild animals.

  7. Bud jones JonesQSM says:

    dAVID Haynes is right on this one ,calling out the rubbish repeated by generations of zealots ranting against all things introduced including ourselves. It Seems the only things of value are native, from language to brown skin. We are a very sick country, lost our way in preserving our2000 years of culture science & learning, sadly ready to give away our very soul to racism & pressuregroups , on the single idea that the squeakiest/loud wheel gets the oil. In our case, taxpayrt cash!!!

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