Frequently Asked Questions & the Paws Perspective

Where and why is 1080 poison used?
1080 is used by two New Zealand entities for two different purposes:
Department of Conservation drops 1080 on New Zealand public lands (including national parks) to reduce wild animal populations (including possums, pigs, deer, hare, rats, cats, rabbits, stoats, tahr, chamois, wallaby and even kaimanawa horses).
Tb-Free (formerly Animal Health Board now OSPRI) aerially drops 1080 on private lands (forestry areas and farm borders) and public lands (including national parks) to reduce possum populations, and secondarily, rats.
The Paws Perspective:
Though 1080 is often advertised by Tb-free, Department of Conservation and Forest and Bird as ‘targeting’ possums, stoats and rats, 1080 is non-specific. Aerial dropping 1080 is like dropping an atomic bomb on a city to kill criminals. 1080 is toxic to air-breathing organisms, including bees, soil and aquatic invertebrates, fish (especially cold water fish), birds and mammals. 1080 is also highly inhumane. No animals – not even those labeled as ‘pests’ should be subjected to such a death. 
Why were possums introduced to New Zealand?
Brushtail possums were introduced from Australia to create a New Zealand fur trade.
Why does Tb-Free want to kill possums?
Tb-Free claims that possums are a vector for bovine tuberculosis (a disease that impacts health of farmed cattle and deer). However, at local NZ Tb-Free meetings, Tb-free verified they do not even autopsy possums to see if any infected possums are present. Controlling stock movement is crucial to decreasing TB problems in livestock.
In Australia, country of origin of the brushtail possum, Tb was eliminated from dairy herds but culling cattle, not by killing possums.


Is bovine tuberculosis in possums a major problem?
Though possums can get infected with bovine TB,  this is relatively rare.  In processing over 500,000 possums, Dawson Furs has yet to encounter a single tubercular possum.  Chris Ritchie of Ritchie Trapping has done major possum contracts for Animal Health Board  and regional councils (Hawke’s Bay, Wellington, Waikato, Wairarapa) from 1979 to 2010; autopsies of thousands of possums have yet to reveal a single tubercular possum.  IF a TB infected possum were found, an infected possum population can be grounded trapped to zero. Such a targeted approach avoids the drastic ecosystem effects of 1080 poison. What they’ve found in parts of the world, i.e. Scotland, get rid of Tb in cattle and it soon disappears naturally in wild animal populations.
Are there other reasons possums are targeted?
Possums are demonised by Department of Conservation and Forest and Bird as avid predators of native bird eggs and nestlings. They are accused of ‘ripping the heads off rare kokako chicks’. In truth, possums are primarily herbivores. Dietary analysis of possum stomachs typically reveals a large diversity of vegetation, including introduced weeds, and fungi. In one scientific study, possums were starved for four days and then the starving possums were fed road kill birds which they proceeded to eat- which was intended to prove possums predate on birds! In another study, a camera was set up by a kokako nest, which the kokako proceeded to abandon; a possum was later filmed eating the egg in the abandoned nest. It was mentioned there was shiny foil on the tree, which possum hunters advise PAWS is a possum attractant, thus luring the possum to the nest.  Though predation of bird eggs or nestlings may possible occur on rare occasions, possums are far from being a major predator of native birds.
Isn’t 1080 the only solution in New Zealand?
The New Zealand Department of Conservation in its meeting minutes (obtained from William Benfield through an Official Information Act request) is documented as writing: “We cannot quantify the ‘without 1080’ scenario, and why should we?… the emphasis should be on 1080 and not the alternatives.” (The Third Wave, Poisoning the Land, page 45).
The PAWS perspective:   Although 1080 is adopted as a nation-wide expedient method of reducing introduced feral animal populations, what is ‘easy’ is not always what is ‘best, wise’ or humane.’  Solutions to ecological challenges are multi-faceted. Solutions require the active participation of New Zealanders.
Isn’t 1080 only used on remote back country that can’t be ‘pest controlled’ by any other means?
Absolutely not. 1080 is used anywhere, including farm edges, and well tracked countryside. 1080 baits are aerial dropped into public and private drinking supplies, including water catchments in Wellington, Dunedin and other major cities. 1080 is allowed to be aerially dropped within 50 meters of a private water intake, and within 150 metres (167 yards) of kindergartens and private homes. 1080 often dramatically impacts lives of rural New Zealanders killing their dogs and cats (over 65 dogs poisoned each year) and livestock (over 2000 sheep killed in a 10 year period).  Cattle and horses have also been killed in their home paddocks. 1080 also kills the wild deer, pigs and rabbits many locals depend on to feed their families. 1080 also affects bee keepers. 1080 is even dropped on hiking tracks in heavily visited areas (and has landed on tourists in Marlborough Sounds.).
If 1080 were eliminated, how would one deal with wild animal species?
Individually, on a case by case, and area by area basis only if and when required.
What is a ‘pest’ to one person is an economic blessing to another. Trout, for example, have been poisoned by Department of Conservation because they are non-native, yet trout fishermen flock to New Zealand from around the globe to fish trout (plus trout feed New Zealanders themselves)
Deer used to be controlled by helicopter hunters, providing wild venison to the European market, and employment to New Zealanders. If control is needed for deer herds, hunting is still a viable option. Despite practical alternatives, deer are cruelly poisoned by 1080. Studies by Eason document twenty thousand deer wasted in a single year by 1080.
Possums can be harvested humanely and their nutritive flesh (high-in-Omega Oils) processed into pet foods. Such innovative solutions are being fostered by Wildenz, – Addiction Foods, Happy Pet, Superior chunky Pet Food , Raw Essentials, Carnivoro etc).  Possum fur provides added bounty to companies including Dawson Furs and the Possum People of Hokitika.   Brushtail fur, worth ten times the value of merino, is key ingredient in exquisite woven products -socks, shawls and knitwear, as well as possum duvets, underlays and skin throws. Possums provide employment opportunities for rural communities. Dawson sources all its possums from 1080 free zones. Business opportunities for enterprising New Zealanders could expand greatly if 1080 were halted.
The Paws perspective: Each species needs to be examined individually for its role in the ecosystem and a decision made how best to humanely and ecologically manage a species if such need occurs.

Isn’t New Zealand unique in that it developed in the absence of browsing animals and that introduced  animals destroy its native bush.

Original New Zealand forests WERE heavily browsed. What is unique is that this was done by bird species, including the 3 metre (nearly 10 feet high) moas, as well as flightless Finchers ducks, giant flightless geese, kakapo, kereru and takahe. The extinction of the moa and many birds (and the burning of vast forested areas by the original Maori inhabitants) resulted in profound changes to the ecology. Forested areas devoid of moa became choked with vegetation, impacting both bird populations and forest health.

According to world famous New Zealand born ecologist, Dr. Graeme Caughley, unbrowsed forest [following extinction of the moa] was in an “un-natural” state” and in his 1989 paper “New Zealand plant-herbivore systems: past and present”, he recommended further deer importation’s (roe deer) to complement those already here.”

William Benfield, author of The Third Wave, Poisoning the Land, writes:

“By introducing exotic herbivores, deer, chamois and tahr over 100 years ago, and pigs and goats even earlier, browse was once more restored to the forests of New Zealand, not the same browse, but still a browse that goes to some extent to restore the former balance to the forest and alpine areas. Forest Service scientist Thane Riney’s Lake Monk study shows that after over forty years of undisturbed occupation by deer in a remote Westland forest, no palatable plants had been driven to extinction by deer as [botanist] Cockayne claimed would happen. Riney observed that browse resistant plants were once more in ascendance, as they would have in the pre-human forest, that erosion was not occurring. The deer population, after peaking about 15 years earlier, were … in natural decline as they sought to establish a ‘sustainable limit cycle’ in their new environment.

The Paws Perspective: We live in the world we have today, a rich biodiversity of native and introduced species. If a particular species does become out of balance, than a humane and ecological species-specific balancing (rather than a non-specific mass attack) needs to be addressed.

 Where  is New Zealand heading?

Proposed in New Zealand are ever escalating attacks on animal species, spurred by vision of a ‘pest free New Zealand.’ The most likely scenario, says professor Charles Daugherty “…would be to start in the deep south or far north, with a rolling front of eradication progressing across the country. The challenge, Daugherty believes, lies in promoting pest control in inhabited areas, and co-ordinating the required “precision military operation”. (The Dominion Post, “Can New Zealand Really Be Pest-Free? Nikki Macdonald, 23/03/13)

The Paws Perspectve: Attempting to recreate a ‘natives species only’ ecosystem is as impossible a feat as restoring dinosaurs and primal existence to planet earth. Such attempts are sheer ecocide. Such mass poisoning would dramatically affect biodiversity. Such actions would severely inhibit basic human rights to clean water, safe environment for pets and stock, safe recreation areas, safe places to harvest wild plants (1080 uptakes in plants!) or harvest clean wild game. Such poisoning is contrary to New Zealand principles of ‘clean green’ and ‘100% pure.” 

Slaughtering the animals also poisons the earth. In the words of Chief Seattle, “Whatever happens to the beasts, also happens to man.” 

What is Biodiversity?

The Reed Dictionary of New Zealand English defines biodiversity as the wide range of plant and animal life in a given environment …   New Zealand government policy, on the other hand, is fuelled by by a ‘native species’ only vision, Such vision fuels multimillion dollar ‘aerial 1080 pest control’ policies that are self perpetuating.

 How is the pest industry self perpetuating?

After nearly 60 years of use, New Zealanders are told that birds are in a more critical state than ever, that predators are more abundant than ever, and that more 1080 is needed more often and more places than ever.  1080 effects on rats are a perfect example of how use of 1080 compounds the very problem it is attempting to solve.

What about rats?

Rats have coexisted with NZ birds for the past 700 years.  Rats can become problematic,  but the expedient solution (aerial 1080 ) sends shock waives of repercussions. Rat knockdown tends to be a very short term solution (4 to 6 months according to Assessment of Environmental Affects) and severe ‘bounce back’ can occur, especially in times of good food supply.  Rat numbers may rebound to three to ten times higher than pre poisoning levels.

Temporary knock back of possums leaves warm dry possum dens unoccupied, which become a haven for surviving rodents. Plenty of shelter and low competition for food enhances rat breeding.  Rat plagues’ within 1 to 2 years of 1080 drops are an all too frequent ‘unintended consequence’.

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