Tuesday, February 1, 2011

1080 - the untold stories

All the articles below were published in the Southland Times newspaper on Friday 31st January 2011 by the Southern Earth Environmental Coalition (SEEC).

They have been reprinted in this blog for ease of viewing.
Note: please click on 'Older Posts' at the bottom of the page for the remainder of the articles.

Any financial backing would be greatly appreciated as we continue to question those who are making these decisions and bring about the changes needed for protection of our environment and of our health.  Despite cover-ups that have been uncovered and numerous accounts regarding detrimental and even devastating effects to our wildlife (from members of the public and even ex-DoC workers), the killing practices continue and the spin doctors carry on churning out 'the success of their poison operations'.  Details of our bank account are on the Southern Earth Environmental Coalition page.  Alternatively write to us on our email: seecnz@gmail.com or post your comments to this blog.

Further Info

These websites provide further information, radio interviews, film clips and research:

Watch for new Graf Boys doco on alternatives to 1080 and social impact of aerial poisons.

1080 Facts

• 1080 is ONLY registered for aerial use against possums, but in reality it is an indiscriminate poison and kills anything that eats enough of it: insects, birds, aquatic life, mammals, etc.

• Even DoC state that stoats are the major threat to kaka, not possums. (OIA Letter)

• Stoats do not eat the 1080 baits typically used in aerial application. They prefer live kill, so are unlikely to die from eating something that has died from 1080.

• The primary diet of stoats changes after aerial 1080 use from rats to birds. (Murphy)

• Rat numbers explode after aerial 1080 operations. (Landcare Research) DoC then asks for more money for rat control because rats kill birds (e.g. Catlins, Dart, Caples).

• “Stoats and rodents will bounce back in a year.” (DoC e-mail after Waitutu operation)

• Rats can outbreed almost any other vertebrate and so are able to recover faster from blanket poisoning than slow-breeding native birds. (gestation period 21 days <14 per litter)

• Stoats have 1 litter per year of 5~12 pups. Does anything outbreed pests?

• Possums have one joey per year. So, if 1080 killed 99.95% of possums in the Waitutu why do DoC need to go back and do it again?

• DoC’s own research shows that 1080 kills many native birds.

• DoC have NO credible scientific research that can conclude that benefits occur after 1080 operations, not even in a single species.

• By using aerial poisons, DoC are destroying the delicate structure of ecosystems that have evolved over millions of years and are interfering with the balance of nature.

• 1080 is among the world’s 10 most lethal poisons, designated a Class 1A poison by WHO.

• The manufacturer’s label states that carcasses killed by 1080 must be burned or buried and must be kept out of water. This is not happening.

• <5 tons of 1080 is produced annually. The NZ government uses more than 80%. The USDA is the only US customer and is reported to use less than 4 TABLESPOOONS per year.

• 1080 was developed as an insecticide during WWII by the Germans, but despite lack of good quality research DoC claim insignificant impact on insects.

• NZFSA does not routinely test animals or animal products for human consumption (milk, meat) for 1080 residues, even though 1080 is, in some cases, aerially applied next to farms.

• 1080 kills deer, pigs, trout, etc., consumed by the public. They can also ingest sub-lethal doses of  1080 so it can enter the human food chain. Cooking meat (from animals with residues) at under 200°C does not render 1080 completely harmless (Landcare Research).

• 1080 can accumulate in humans in the heart, lungs, liver, kidneys and unborn foetus. Symptoms can 
include: cardiac irregularities, chronic fatigue, seizures and foetal abnormalities.

• No long-term studies have ever been carried out to ascertain the safety of 1080 usage.

• 1080 can and does get into water supplies. In the right conditions (cold, low microbial activity) it can persist for months or years.

• 1080 was banned in the UK in 1959 because it was too indiscriminate and kills all invertebrates not just target species.

• New Zealand has already had venison (twice), milk and timber recalled or dumped because of possible or actual 1080 contamination. Obviously some export markets test for 1080.

• Our honey industry has been compromised because of our inability to guarantee freedom from 1080 contamination.

• A lucrative Japanese contract for possum meat was cancelled for the same reason.

• Possum fur now reaches $100+/kg and is a unique product in great demand/short supply.

• There is NO incentive to eliminate the predators that are the greatest threat to our native birds, i.e. stoats, ferrets, feral cats, etc.

• There are more DoC workers in Southland than Police Officers.

• DoC’s 5-minute bird count was devised 35 years ago by Dawson and Bulls and abandoned the following year as it wasn’t a valid scientific method. Why do DoC persist in using it?

• Forest Stewardship Council-accredited forestry companies are no longer allowed to use 1080 or brodifacoum in their forests.

• DoC and AHB, mostly through Landcare Research, are essentially the only sources of scientific investigation into the effects of aerial 1080 on ecosystems. This is because 1080 is banned in most other countries. No other country in the world is doing anything remotely comparable to New Zealand’s poisoning programmes.
• Mistletoe is parasitic and can decline in healthy forests despite possum control. DoC knew this before the Waitutu drop.

• According to information publically available on the Internet, Animal Control Products Ltd., the importers of 1080, is wholly owned by Minister of Finance Hon. Bill English and Minister of Agriculture Hon. David Carter on behalf of the government.

• In November 2009, TV One reported that DoC had spent $1.28 million dollars on “spin doctors” over the previous year. Why the need for “spin doctors” when telling the truth costs absolutely nothing? How much did they spend in 2010 and on what?

DOC Closes Family Picnic Area

Lillburn Valley resident Tamsin Scott at the Thicketburn Picnic Area, upset that it has been closed to the public until the end of January.
Members of the public were left with more questions than answers after last October’s 1080 drop by the Department of Conservation (DOC) in Fiordland’s Waitutu Forest, none the least of which is why DOC ploughed up the Thicket Burn Picnic Area immediately afterwards as shown in this photograph. The site was used as the staging area for the operation in which 50 tonnes of 1080 bait was dropped over a 25,000ha area and has not once in the last 35 years ever been closed for maintenance. 

“Their original plan was to hose the site down, but now it looks like they’re trying to bury the contamination,” said SEEC representative Tamsin Scott. “Either way, it seems to be a pretty irresponsible thing to do to a family picnic area. Can DOC really guarantee that children playing in the area in the future will not be poisoned by 1080, given that 1080 can take months to break down even in ideal conditions? After similar drops on the West Coast, fragments of 1080 bait as large as 1cm in diameter were found as shown in the accompanying photograph.” 

1080 fragments as big as 1cm left on the ground at the end of a public road after a recent 1080 operation on the West Coast.

DOC’s Colin Bishop, the ranger responsible for the Waitutu operation, could not be reached for comment when this article was originally  written in mid-October. However, according to comments from a DOC spokesperson at that time, the picnic area was closed for standard maintenance until the end of January for resealing and growing grass. “We thought it was time to do some work on it.” When asked whether there was any danger from residual 1080 poison the response was, “I wouldn’t have thought so”. 

Another aspect of the operation that surprised many was the heavy Police presence in the area on the day of the operation. According to witnesses, as many as eight Police vehicles were present in addition to security personnel, despite the fact that no protests were expected or carried out. “The threat here is not from the public who are rightly standing up against this madness,” said Tamsin Scott, “it is from those that are indiscriminately killing our wildlife and contaminating our waterways. If we don’t stop this now, we risk losing everything.”

Local concession holders were also unimpressed by DOC’s flaunting of the resource consent requirement to provide five working days notice prior to the drop. “They reneged on what they were saying,” said South Coast Jet operator Vaughan Reynolds. “It’s difficult to plan ahead when you don’t know what’s happening from day to day.” 

Jock Saunders, a well-known local farmer who has used the Waitutu area for 37 years, was also unimpressed with DOC’s actions on the day. “We were assured that we would have access to the caravan on the day of the operation to monitor the drop. Jessyca Bernard even went so far as to say to me, ‘we would like you to be involved in the 1080 operation — for the sake of our credibility we want you to come.’ However, when it came to the crunch they refused, so what was on the flight plans and weight dockets that they did not want us to see?”

DoC Uses Funding Set Aside for Private Land

The Nature Heritage Fund (NHF) is “an independent contestable fund established by the Government in 1990 for voluntary protection of nature on private land”, yet only 2,421ha of private land was involved in the Waitutu operation: the rest of the 25,000ha was Fiordland National Park. Is NHF being used as a slush fund to finance DoC projects for which it otherwise would not receive funding? 

NHF receives an annual allocation of funds from the Government, is administered by an independent committee and serviced by DoC, with reports being made to the Minister of Conservation. This “independent committee” includes ex-DoC personnel and others affiliated with Forest & Bird Society. 

Funding for the Waitutu drop was approved by the previous Conservation minister, Hon. Tim Groser, who stipulated that no less than 25,000ha were to be controlled for possums. This despite the fact that DoC know that stoats are the main problem and multiple research studies carried out in the Waitutu area show that Mistletoe has no significant relation to possum browse anyway.

Possum control had been discontinued in the Waitutu in 2000, but suddenly 10 years later we were told that intensive possum control was required to prevent immediate extinction of vulnerable forest species. DoC never released credible research data to prove this.

Interestingly, the pest control promised as part of the $20 million Waitutu Block Settlement Act 1997 had never been carried out, despite relatively accessible terrain and local communities in need of employment. Was this deliberate or just incompetence?

Despite private land accounting for less than 10% of the 1080 drop zone, the NHF committee provided $500,000 plus $62,500GST for pest control, stipulating that 1080 was to be used for the initial treatment, with further treatments to be undertaken within the next 3~4 years. (DoC Southland Conservancy provided an extra $100,000). 

So, with such strings attached (i.e. “you will use 1080”) it is easy to see why ground control consisting of trapping or feratox bait bags was not a possible option even if it was cheaper. How many other aerial 1080 drops have NHF funded in this way?

Have a Proper Gander at this Photo

This photograph was taken in early March 2009 at the DoC camping area at the start of the walking track to Lake Daniels, just out of Springs Junction on the Lewis Pass Road. In addition to the infamous possum/rat photo, it shows a dog-killed Kiwi and a stoat-killed Takahe. Do you think this misleads people into believing that possums and rats are responsible for the death of these larger birds? If so, please contact Kate.Wilkinson@ministers.govt.nz and ask her to stop using this photograph immediately.
In another strange twist to the aerial 1080 saga, evidence has come to light that suggests the photograph used extensively by the Department of Conservation, Forest & Bird, Landcare Research and district and regional councils throughout New Zealand to “prove” that possums and rats eat native birds was actually from a controlled photo shoot.

To show two predators, who normally have nothing to do with each other, sitting up a tree trunk together after apparently raiding a native bird’s nest seemed too far-fetched to Nelson man Ron Eddy. He contacted the photographer David Mudge on the evening of February 1st, 2009.

Apparently taken during November 2007 in a two-acre remnant block of native bush on a farm outside Ohau, Horowhenua, Mr. Mudge explained that the photograph was actually part of a sequence of forty. These were taken using a motion sensor-controlled camera set up on top of a fruit picking ladder with flash units above and below the camera. With every photo taken these flash units flashed every two seconds to eliminate ‘redeye’ in the subjects.

That a possum and rat were prepared to sit through forty flash events every two seconds while they supposedly feasted on nestlings is not what can be expected of truly wild animals because under normal conditions both of these animals are usually very wary. With a number of such camera stations in the area it is quite apparent that these two animals were conditioned to their surroundings and therefore not truly “wild” animals.

Further questions revealed that the photographer had nailed the vine supporting the animals and the bird’s nest to the tree two to three weeks earlier and that the birds in the photograph were not, in fact, native birds, but Song Thrushes. For some reason the thrushes had chosen to inhabit a nest that does not resemble that of a thrush 2m or more off the ground in native bush, which is not normally their chosen habitat.

By nailing the vine to the tree, the photographer had made the nest and its occupants readily available to possums and rats, which would not normally be the case.

That these seemingly “wild” animals sat quietly through forty flashes from the camera without feeling threatened or frightened is indeed remarkable, unless they had been photographed so often that they no longer felt any fear.

The photographer went on to tell Ron that there was a large population of possums and rats in the block (the Animal Health Board requires they be culled) and said that he had shot the silver-grey possum as it was the only one that had attacked the nest, and he didn’t want it to teach the rest of the possums to eat birds.

So, let’s recap the facts:
• Controlled photoshoot on a farm.
• Song Thrushes — NOT native birds.
• Nest held in place by a nailed vine.
• Access facilitated to possums and rats by the nailed vine.
• Large population of possums and rats — NOT a typical native bush setting.

Do you think it is right for the agencies mentioned in this article to use this photo to mislead the public into believing that possums and rats are a “Big Problem” in our native forests? We think it demonstrates a lack of integrity on their behalf and because we as taxpayers pay them as public servants to work for us we expect higher than normal levels of integrity to go with the higher than normal rates at which they are paid.

Farmers Against Ten Eighty (FATE)

“A recent poll of West Coast farmers shows that 75% are opposed to the continued use of 1080. FATE would like to see the AHB refocus their Tb eradication efforts back on farms, giving farmers the knowledge and the skills required to remove Tb from properties.”
Mary Molloy, Hari Hari chaos1@xtra.co.nz 

SEEC would like to thank FATE for their assistance with the content of this advertisement.