by Ben Hope
A host of Fiordland wildlife, ranging from favourites like kea and dolphins to seals, fish and birds are almost certain to be exposed to 1080 poison says an Otago scientist Dr Jo Pollard, a specialist in ecology and animal behaviour.
Tomorrow on Friday June 26, in the Wet Jacket, Dusky Sound area – a World Heritage site – 1080-laced poisonous food baits will be dropped over 40,000 ha by the Department of Conservation (DoC).
“The keas’ deaths will be horrific, with extreme muscular spasms going on for many hours,” said Dr Pollard. “DoC’s own research found that on average, 12% of the local kea are killed in every poisoning operation. No-one knows how many kea there are left in the wild, possibly around 1000”.
Along with kea, many other species of birds are expected to die from the poisoning.
Dr Pollard said deaths of seabirds have never been reliably monitored, but other birds are known to suffer a heavy toll such as the unique fernbirds. The area’s islands feature on BirdLife International’s draft list of Important Bird Areas for NZ Seabirds.
“Yet there is no evidence that the risk to seabirds has been considered at all by DoC,” she said.
According to a pest control operator, seals and dolphins were also likely to suffer and die. The operator had witnessed the effects of the poison (1080) many times, and said carcasses and baits would end up in the sea to then be eaten by fish and invertebrates which in turn would poison the seals and dolphins. He had approached DoC, university specialists and many other groups with his concerns, seeking assurance that the seals and dolphins would be considered if poisoning was carried out, but failed to get any response.
“Cold-blooded animals such as invertebrates can accumulate very high levels of 1080 while feeding, because it takes a long time to affect them. So they can become a toxic meal for a seal or dolphin,” explained Dr Pollard.
DoC had not demonstrated any scientific rationale for, or ecosystem gain from any of its aerial poisoning operations over the decades.
“In fact there is very strong research evidence that the process ultimately favours rats, with subsequent population surges resulting in poisoning being carried out again and again.”
Rat numbers may currently be low in the Dusky Sound area, which is to be poisoned for the very first time. Monitoring data have not been made available but unofficial reports were that even DoC staff are worried because there are so few rats around to eat the poison, said Dr Pollard.
An official complaint about the 1080 drop has been made to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the organisation responsible for overseeing World Heritage sites: https://1080science.co.nz/open-letter-to-iucn-world-headquarters-government-poisoning-of-world-heritage-sites-in-nz/.
,c> Fiordland rain forest -and wildlife – being 1080 bombed