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10-year study on 1080 operations in Wairarapa

Results from a study recently completed in the Remutaka and Aorangi forest ranges provide further evidence that the use of aerial 1080 operations aid native bird populations.

The research was commissioned by Operational Solutions for Primary Industries [OSPRI], a partnership between primary industries and the government, to investigate the effects of 1080 on the forest ecosystem, including birds and insects.

The study tracked the populations of 12 bird species before, during, and after three aerial 1080 operations were used for predator control over the span of a decade.

Results show a positive response in terms of native bird species’ populations when pest mammals were controlled by the poison.

Parallel monitoring of native beetles and wētā also indicated no negative side effects of the operation – on the contrary, when rodent populations were reduced the abundance of the two insect groups increased.

Stephen Hartley, associate professor at Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University and one of the study’s researchers, said the purpose of the exercise was to look at what the principal causes of changes in bird populations are when considering predators, “mast years”. and aerial operations.

“Mast years, when trees produce abundant fruit and seed, benefit many forest birds, but only if pests are simultaneously controlled,” Hartley said.

“This is something that can only currently be achieved effectively and at scale with aerial 1080.”

OSPRI’s research manager Richard Curtis said the study proves that 1080 is an effective tool for pest control and has a positive impact on native bird populations and insects.

“We found that the forests did not fall silent following the use of 1080, on three separate occasions,” Curtis said.

“The significance of this study is its duration and the consistency of the findings over 10 years.”

Describing the study results as reassuring, Curtis said it demonstrates that 1080 can be used to control pests without harming native birds.

“For now, it remains the only effective pest control option at scale, helping to eradicate TB from possums across millions of hectares of remote bush around the country,” Curtis said.

“Moreover, as its use becomes ever more refined, it is important to continue to monitor the impact of 1080 on all mammalian predators and native biodiversity.”

Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre general manager Emily Court said the centre undertakes a rat eradication programme with 1080 every two years.

“Every time we have a 1080 operation, there’s a lot of public notification required,” Court said.

“We field a lot of very negative public backlash every single time, and it’s really hard work and unfortunate.”

Court said the science today around the use of 1080 is much more advanced than when the method was first trialled.

“We’d love to not use any toxins at all, but unfortunately, it’s a really effective tool in the toolkit.”

Court said an upcoming kokako survey in September will be useful in being able to see the impact of 1080 in the reserve.

“That will be really telling for us because it will be three years since the last and we have had a 1080 operation in between,” Court said.

“So if we are correct, and as that research paper suggests, the use of 1080 has a really positive effect on successful breeding.”

Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age, originally hailing from Wellington. She is interested in social issues and writes about the local arts and culture scene.

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