Mass Poison Drops Scheduled To Wipeout Pests (updated after death of dogs)

24 June 2009
Fresh waves of animal exterminations are to be carried out on Rangitoto and Motutapu Islands by the Department of Conservation Auckland on Friday of this week, as a break in the weather will provide suitable conditions for the first of three aerial drops of 70 tonnes of ‘rat bait’ over the next few months. The poison ‘Pestoff 20R’ containing Brodifacoum is typically used to kill rats but it also used to control larger mammalian pests such as possum.

Brodifacoum has a half life of 20-130 days and is highly lethal to mammals and birds, and extremely lethal to fish. It is a highly cumulative poison, due to its high lipophilicity and extremely slow elimination. (source Wikipedia) The estimated fatal dose for a man is 15mg and 0.25mg for a dog. Poison baits or carcasses are deadly to dogs.

UPDATE 4 August 2009: A subsequent drop was carried out in the week 9-17 July. 2 dogs have died recently and 30 others are said to be sick after visiting beaches in the Hauraki Gulf Dead fish, dolphins and penguins have been found further north on the beaches in Rodney. See news report Dogs’ beach deaths spark warnings. The North Shore beaches involved – Cheltenham and Browns Bay are very close to the two islands.
Interactive map of Cheltenham and Browns Bay beaches

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Rat poison was also dropped on 90 islands and rock stacks in eastern Bay of Islands in June. At the time Friends of the Earth spokesperson Paul Tucker expressed his surprise that tourists were allowed back on the islands within 48 hours of the drops, saying that it was unheard of. See Project song is all go.

Any stoats, wild cats, rabbits and hedgehogs that survive on Rangitoto and Motutapu will be removed later by trapping, shooting and using dogs. New Zealand has no native land mammals other than 2 species of bat, any animals not considered to be indigenous to New Zealand will be removed from the islands to allow for a wildlife sanctuary for kaka, kiwi and takahe.

Blanket eradication of non-native animals is nothing new in New Zealand, which is the world’s largest user of Sodium Fluoroacetate – also known as 1080.

Last week 370 plastic bait stations carrying 20,000 pellets of the cyanide-based pesticide Feratox were laid over 800ha on Rotorua’s Mt Ngongotaha in an effort to wipe out Dama wallabies which were introduced almost 140 years ago. The wallabies are said to be a threat to native plants.

The highly contentious and widespread use of 1080 has already caused damage to the country’s ecotourism industry and is contrary to the ‘100% Pure’ image so often associated with NZ .

“Poisoning Paradise — Ecocide in New Zealand
Hamilton-based film-makers Clyde and Steve Graf made the above documentary in an effort to raise public awareness about the devastating effects 1080 has on New Zealand’s fauna, flora and water courses.
“Largely shot in bush areas after aerial 1080 drops, the documentary “goes behind the wall of the forest and shows people the other side of the story”, Clyde Graf said.

It shows falcons and other birds dying, freshwater crayfish fighting over submerged 1080 pellets, deer and pigs rotting in creeks, eels eating dead animals in waterways, dead and dying stock, and weka and bush robins picking at 1080 carcasses and baits.

Scientists, university lecturers, doctors, hunters and farmers highlight their concerns about the impact of 1080 on wildlife populations, the forest ecosystem and human health.

The Graf brothers worked on the film for eight months after seeing a weka picking at a 1080 carcass in Kahurangi National Park.”

The brothers estimate that hundreds of dogs, ten thousand deer and thousands of endangered animals are killed by the poison every year. Visit their blog here: Grafboys Blog

For more about the background and the effects of 1080 see other posts on this blog: Toxic 1080 and sites such as and the World Health Organisation‘s Data Sheet 16 on Sodium Fluoroacetate:

“1.4.4 Unintended Effects:
Very toxic to birds, domestic animals and wildlife. High risk of secondary poisoning to carnivorous and omnivorous species from eating poisoned carcasses.

2.3 Toxicity To Non-Mammalian Species:
The entries in these sections are intended to draw attention to
special risks and to give warnings of any needs for special

2.3.1 Fish: fairly low toxicity to fish. No risk from rat baits used
in sewers discharging into natural waters.

2.3.2 Birds: very toxic to birds. Hazard from eating grain baits seems
to be low, but there have been many deaths from eating coyote baits and
from secondary poisoning.

2.3.3 Other species: it is toxic to bees, but there is no hazard under
proper conditions of use. Very toxic to wildlife generally.”

New Zealand Aerial 1080 Application

“1080 baits have been used through ground based and aerial application to control possums and other non-native predators in New Zealand. New Zealand’s unique fauna and flora is endangered by the rapid spread of possums, introduced into the country last century to create an industry for possum fur.

“While New Zealand’s Department of Conservation Doc favors the effectiveness of aerial 1080 application, vocal critics of the application of 1080 claim: “government agencies increasingly use large scale indiscriminate aerial applications to cut costs. Large number of non-target species are destroyed as a result, including deer and native birds. Southern Boobook, a species of owl (mopoke or morepork) is particularly vulnerable through secondary poisoning.”

“A positive side effect of blanket aerial poisoning is a temporary drop in rat numbers, but they quickly recover due to the niche created by low possum numbers. The effectiveness of aerial drops is being questioned due to pockets of possum population either resistant to the compound or not taking the bait with the overall numbers bouncing back rapidly. Ground operations using bait stations with sodium fluoroacetate are not as effective as other modern target poisons such as cyanide baits.”

New Zealand’s Environment Risk Management Authority (ERMA) released in August 2007 its latest review of the matter. The review gives new guidelines for the use of 1080 in New Zealand and concludes that the beneficial effects of pest eradication outweigh the risks.”

Warning signs to be displayed for 6 months
The report stated warning signage must be in place for 6 months after application or until it can be demonstrated that baits and carcases no longer pose a risk to dogs. It also recommended that further research be undertaken in relation to the use and effects of 1080 and into alternatives to 1080 for pest control. Research into the aquatic and soil degradation of 1080 is also called for as present data is “limited.”

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