With a long history of poisoning Kea, DoC is set to finish off what remains – Dr Jo Pollard


by Dr Jo Pollard (BSc (Hons, PhD))

Posted to Facebook by Carol Sawyer

“The species is now on the brink of extinction” Dr Jo Pollard

“The New Zealand Government’s Department of Conservation (DoC) is embarking on its largest aerial poisoning programme ever this year and endangered kea (Nestor notabilis), NZ’s mountain parrot, are almost certain to die.

DoC has a very long history of poisoning kea. Aerial poisoning with food baits laced with sodium monofluoroacetate (“1080”) was found to be killing kea more than 50 years ago and the species is now on the brink of extinction. Although the government has made no attempt to formally assess numbers, some estimates in 1986 and 1992 were already as low as 1000 birds. There may be very few kea left. Complete absences are being reported in areas of human activity (tramping huts, ski fields, car parks) where they have traditionally gathered.

In DoC studies over the last decade, an average of 12% of marked kea have been reported dead immediately after aerial 1080 poisoning, with a range up to 78%. Now that DoC are embarking on even more intensive, more extensive 1080 poisoning, there seems to be little hope for the species’ survival in the wild.

How is it that a government department charged with conserving species can cause this carnage?

New Zealand’s conservation management has reached a critically low point where science and ecology have been abandoned in favour of feverish poisoning of “pest” species. Tellingly, DoC recently described itself as a “pest control agency”.

According to DoC, it is pests that are endangering kea, therefore the outcome of poisoning will be beneficial. There are serious flaws with this idea.

Firstly, aerial baiting with 1080 poison is very poor at controlling pests, including mice, rats and stoats. Mouse numbers rise almost immediately afterwards; it is thought mice may be able to detect the toxin in food baits and that they flourish because competing species are poisoned off. Rat numbers are usually (not always) low immediately after poisoning, but they breed and re-invade rapidly and within months are typically far more numerous than before, often reaching plague levels. Stoats are sometimes killed, sometimes not (they have to eat poisoned prey to die, because they do not eat the cereal baits), but survivors and invaders can flourish post-poisoning as numbers of their main prey species, rats and mice, escalate. Surviving stoats are also known to turn to eating native birds after poisoning, when rat numbers have suddenly plummeted.

DoC’s answer to this problem is to now increase the frequency and intensity of poisoning. It is planning to spread double the number of baits, then if there are surviving rats, repeat the double-sowing. However that strategy does not help with the problem of non-acceptance of poisoned baits by mice. Whether rat and stoat numbers will be better controlled is unknown. In previous DoC operations, and in other pest populations (flies, laboratory rats and rabbits) repeated 1080 poisoning has become increasingly less effective because pests have developed behavioural and/or genetic resistance. One thing is for sure- kea and other rare native species will be severely at risk.

Secondly, there is no scientific evidence that mammalian pests are the main cause of the kea’s demise as is being claimed by DoC. Its own studies and ornithological studies had previously concluded (in the 1960s, 1990s and last decade) that although living in the company of stoats, kea were “relatively immune” to predation.

In the last few years DoC has made an intensive effort to prove that stoats are a major predator of kea. The evidence that its much-vaunted, very expensive 1080 poisoning programmes are killing kea has been very inconvenient and it has done its best to create the illusion that 1080 actually helps kea.

But DoC’s recent documents show only spurious, indefensible figures based on “seed rain” and contortions of historic data. Hundreds of hours of camera surveillance inside and outside kea nests have produced very little evidence of predation: at the Kea Konvention in April this year we were repeatedly shown a photograph of a stoat that was “about to get” a nesting kea, and a video that failed to run. Even if DoC’s surveillance had shown lots of predation, nest monitoring in itself is known to attract predators and cause adults to abandon chicks so such “evidence” would be hopelessly biased.

So kea are set to disappear, and DoC is set to blame pests, rather than 1080 poisoning, for their demise. The public will be none the wiser unless they are interested and motivated enough to question DoC’s propaganda.

The plight of kea should cause alarm for anyone concerned about the fate of New Zealand’s ecological heritage. Not only birds, but all air-breathing organisms including bacteria, fungi, plants and invertebrates are affected by 1080 (it interferes with the Krebs cycle used in respiration).

The toxin has a marked ability to spread: in cereal dust and fragments created during aerial spreading, in poisoned animals, baits carried by animals, urine, faeces, carcasses and water. On DoC’s own admission, reliable data on poisoning death rates exist only for six endemic birds. Of those, two (fern birds Megalurus punctatus and kea) have been found to be poisoned in large numbers. What is happening to the rest of New Zealand’s endemic species?

For the scientific basis of this article and more information on kea please see http://1080science.co.nz/scientific-reviews-of-1080/

Dr Jo Pollard (BSc (Hons), PhD) is an independent scientist, with particular interests in animal welfare, NZ’s ecology, and scientific integrity.


12 thoughts on “With a long history of poisoning Kea, DoC is set to finish off what remains – Dr Jo Pollard”

  1. Here’s what I think of human supremacist values, and I agree with the author of these quotes:

    As often as Herman had witnessed the slaughter of animals and fish, he always had the same thought: In their behavior toward creatures, all men were Nazis. The smugness with which man could do with other species as he pleased exemplified the most extreme racist theories, the principle that might is right. – “Enemies, A Love Story”

    In his thoughts, Herman spoke a eulogy for the mouse who had shared a portion of her life with him and who, because of him, had left this earth. “What do they know – all these scholars, all these philosophers, all the leaders of the world – about such as you? They have convinced themselves that man, the worst transgressor of all the species, is the crown of creation. All other creatures were created merely to provide him with food, pelts, to be tormented, exterminated. In relation to them, all people are Nazis; for the animals it is an eternal Treblinka.” – “The Letter Writer” from The Seance and Other Stories by Isaac Bashevis Singer


  2. Excerpt direct from Wikipedia .. “Because of their omnivorous feeding habits and inquisitive behaviour, kea are known to be particularly susceptible to 1080 poison baits …”. And we drop enough of these baits .. out of helicoptors .. lying “plain as day” all over our backcountry .. to wipe out our entire human population many times over .. every year. And we’re meant to believe that Kea magically don’t touch them, or hardly ever? They’re like kids in a lolly shop. Or they were, when there were still plenty of them around. Now there’s hardly any. The evidence is all around us .. including the anecdotal observations of bona fide bushmen and bushwomen who get off the beaten track from one end of the country, to the other. If we would just use our eyes and our ears. But oh no .. none of this is true, is it? None so deaf as those who will not hear. None so blind as those who will not see. People talk of scientific evidence. We simply can’t be shown evidence of what there ISN’T. We cannot find the Paired Catchment Study .. or indeed any credible, independent science proving the long-term population benefits to beneficiary species .. simply because there isn’t any! In fact, if we take away all of the paymaster-biased “scientific research” done by DOC, the Animal Health Board, OSPRI and all of the other outfits economically and philosophically entwined with 1080 .. we actually find that there’s bugger all “science” left. And people wonder why those opposed to 1080 .. those who haven’t been able to afford hundred of thousands if not millions of dollars of research and propaganda to support and “prove” their biased point of view .. but reckon they know the real reason behind the dramatic decline of our National Bird of the Year .. the world’s most intelligent bird .. the mighty Kea .. find the situation just a little bit frustrating? The lack of independent research .. with the most basic of scientific controls .. after 60 years of 1080 use .. is a national disgrace. How many more years .. of supporting an exponentially growing business extorting taxpayer money in ever-increasing amounts .. to extol a terrible death on an exponentially growing number of birds and animals, target and non-target species alike .. will be enough? There’s certainly no end in sight. Heaven help us all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Truth Stewart. And very sad. You may be aware, buses in Wellington have huge ads on them against 1080. People being encouraged to compliment them on that. More info to come. Thanks for your comment


  3. Well almost Two years ago and they Never Succeeded .But Actually DOC are Not trying to Wipeout our Native Birds .If they Did none of them Would have Jobs.


    1. Could’ve fooled me Graham. Theyre doing damned well at it & I hear of people who wanted to save our natives quitting doc in disillusionment. 10K birds per drop Graham. Wonder how they manage to kill natives each time? Another of Doc’s miracles perhaps?


  4. My greatest concern with DOC is I have heard that if you want to work with Doc you HAVE to be pro 1080. If not you will not get a job with them.

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