Ban on poison would be disastrous for native birds, leaving only cost-prohibitive methods, warns DoC expert
DoC says more Kea would be killed by predators than through eating poison bait.
A senior Department of Conservation scientist says a ban on 1080 poison would be catastrophic for some native birds. Dr Graeme Elliott, who is co-ordinating fieldwork for the department’s aerial blitz using bait containing 1080, said the poison was the only way to control predators such as rats and stoats on a large scale.
“Banning 1080 would mean we would have decided to abandon most forest bird species to extinction in the back country,” Dr Elliott said.
He was on a panel yesterday organised by the Science Media Centre to discuss what DoC calls the “battle for our birds”.
Using mostly helicopters, the department is spreading 650 tonnes of bait over 700,000ha in the largest operation of its kind. The cost is about $10 million.
The work is designed to disrupt what scientists call a “predator-plague” cycle, where heavy beech forest seed-fall — triggers a rise in mice and rat numbers, in turn driving an increase in stoats.
Most of the forest being targeted is in the South Island, although several smaller pockets are in the central North Island.
Dr Elliott conceded deer would be killed by 1080, but said deer remained plentiful even in areas where the poison had been used for years. He accepted some native birds would die from 1080, but “benefits outweigh the losses”.
The number of Kea killed by predators was much higher than the number which died after eating poison bait, he said. He said if nothing was done to protect the endangered mountain parrot, they would “disappear off the face of the planet”.
Bill Wallace, co-leader of the Ban 1080 Party, said the costly project was unnecessary. He claimed DoC was exaggerating rat numbers, saying native birds were plentiful in big areas of Fiordland and Kahurangi forests — two prime locations in DoC sights.