Two american scientists spent 6 months reviewing DoC's (Department of Conservation) 1080 practice in New Zealand.
This is their summary, as it appears on www.possumbusters.co.nz ....
About a year ago we learned that DoC was routinely and indiscriminately dropping food laced with tonnes of a universal poison, 1080 into our forest ecosystems. Ostensibly, this aerial poisoning of our forests is being done to control possums.
DoC asserts that only possums and other so called “pests” are significantly poisoned. As scientists and life-long environmentalists, we were struck that this contention appears to violate the most fundamental ecological principles as well as common sense. Is it plausible that one could drop food mixed with a poison that kills all animals into a semi-tropical ecosystem and only negatively affect possums and other “pests”?
This question is particularly relevant now in light of the upcoming aerial 1080 drop into the Coromandel watershed. In science, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. We resolved to determine whether the extraordinary claims of DoC have the weight of extraordinary evidence behind them. The answer is unequivocal: they do not.
After months of investigation, we found that 1080 research, almost entirely sponsored and controlled, by DoC sustained six conclusions, which given the large cost and risks of DoC’s aerial 1080 program we find truly astonishing.
First, there is not a single scientifically credible study showing that aerial 1080 when used on the mainland is of net benefit to any species of New Zealand’s native fauna, let alone has the general salvational effects claimed by DoC.
Second, there is overwhelming evidence from DoC’s own research that aerial 1080 is killing large numbers of native animals, including birds, insects and other invertebrates, and our only native mammal, the bat. Moreover most native species are entirely unstudied.
Third, there is not a single ecosystem level study showing lack of harm, let alone showing the overwhelming beneficial effects that DoC claims. In fact 1080 drops often increase stoat and rat populations.
Fourth, while it is probable that possums, if left unchecked, would over time do some damage to our forests, the degree of that damage is not known and whether that damage is being controlled with aerial 1080 without irreversible damage to the forest ecosystem is entirely unproven.
Fifth, DoC’s 1080 research is generally of poor scientific quality, is obviously biased as one would expect given the fact that the researchers owe their jobs to the goodwill of the DoC bureaucracy, and it does not actually show what DoC claims.
Sixth, in any case, it is clear from AHB research that there is a clear alternative: ground based baiting with species specific bait stations. In short there is absolutely nothing in the scientific record that would justify the following statement from DoC’s May 14 press release: “Without 1080, the price New Zealanders would have to pay in the loss of their unique species and habitats is too awful to contemplate.”
To the contrary, DoC’s own science tells a depressingly grim story. DoC habitually, publicly and aggressively misrepresents what its research shows. For example, DoC claims in its ERMA submission “that robin nesting success more than compensates for any robin losses from 1080”. This is absolutely false.
The cited study showed increased nesting success in 1 of 3 years, but even that single success failed to translate into increased robin population success -- the bottom line. The study also showed that 54% of banded robins died in the 1080 poisoned area compared to none in the un-poisoned area.
DoC has claimed that Kereru populations are increased by aerial 1080 treatment, and yet the only study published on the subject was methodological nonsense, which proved nothing, but incidentally “showed” that Grey Warblers and Silvereye populations decreased in the 1080 treated area, an observation never mentioned by DoC’s otherwise highly efficient public opinion control machine.
DoC claims that the tomtit is not affected by aerial 1080 bait, and cites a study done by Westbrooke in 2005 to prove that. However, the published paper actually shows that substantial numbers of tomtits could be being killed even by low concentration cereal baits, and more important it shows that about 40% of tomtits died when exposed to low concentration carrot baits!!! Yet this is never mentioned by DoC. Carrot bait is still in widespread use by DoC.
DoC claims that bats are unaffected by aerial 1080. However, a competent 2002 study by Lloyd and McQueen showed that bats were clearly poisoned. The study gave a “best estimate” that 14% of bats would be killed in 14 foraging flights in a 1080-poisoned area...
There is even substantial evidence that DoC has suppressed critical research unfavourable to its aerial-1080 agenda. This research on invertebrates (insects, worms, spiders, etc.) is perhaps the most disturbing. In 1992, M Meads completed a study for DoC that showed approximately 50% mortality among forest invertebrates from a single aerial 1080 “treatment”.
DoC refused to allow the resulting paper to be published. At the same time they commissioned a similar study which structurally had no chance of detecting the high mortality seen in the Meads study. The resulting poorly designed and analyzed study remains the sole DoC-published evidence that its indiscriminate use of a poison which originally developed as an insecticide is not devastating our forest invertebrates.
The implications of this are truly disturbing given that invertebrates are the backbone of forest ecosystems. In fact, DoC’s use of aerial 1080 over the intervening 15 years has probably already done irreversible damage to the diversity of our native invertebrates which DoC is mandated to protect. New Zealand is unique in the world in its use of aerial 1080.
No other country is doing anything remotely similar to this. New Zealand uses over 85% of the world’s supply of 1080, a poison that is toxic to all animals, that is banned or severely restricted in most countries, and that is classified “extremely hazardous” by the World Health Organization. In response to this, DoC asserts that New Zealand is in a unique ecological position, but this is simply not true.
For example, the State of Hawaii has an almost identical problem with feral mammals threatening native birds, and we learned from Miles Nakahara, Forest & Wildlife branch manager that Hawaii would not even consider such a practice. “You are pretty cavalier using a poison like that … you will destroy the forest … you will lose the very thing you are trying to save.”
In addition to the lethal damage that 1080 is doing to our fauna is the potential chronic risk to animals and humans of exposure to 1080 given the proximity of recent and planned drops near habitated areas such as ours.
The acute lethal poisoning level for adult humans is some where between 30 and 200 mg. It would take eating the poison bait directly, eating a poisoned animal or an accident in a water catchment to achieve that level of toxicity.
But what is not known is the effect of sublethal and chronic poisoning. Since humans cannot be experimented upon, there are two potential avenues of approach regarding the risk to humans. First are animal experiments.
The more similar the animal is to humans, the more compelling. In this case, it may not need to be that close since the mechanism of poisoning by 1080 is common to virtually all air breathing organisms. There are very few studies in which chronic and sublethal effects have been examined and they tend to be limited in scope and short term.
What research has been done indicates that 1080 in sublethal doses can cause infertility, hormonal dysfunction, and mutations in several vertebrate species (SA Weaver, 2006).
The second approach is to examine theoretical arguments based on the modes of the poison’s action, the organs most affected and biological mechanisms of cellular disruption. Dr. Peter Scanlon’s submission to ERMA is the best review covering these issues of which we are aware.
In short, this state of affairs regarding potential chronic human toxicity is utterly deplorable. DoC has not seen fit to investigate the extent to which these may be affecting native species via chronic exposure even though its stated intention is to “treat” our forests with 1080 poisoning every two or three years into the indefinite future.
At present, we can only speculate on the long term and chronic effects of these sublethal doses of 1080 on our native species AND ourselves. Lacking evidence, to simply assume that there is no collateral damage and significant chronic effects is irresponsible in the extreme. DoC’s lack of concern and hubris matches that of the DDT story and the U.S. dropping of dioxin (agent orange) on Vietnam.
The question always arises: why are DoC and EW pushing this apparently insane practice. Many DoC employees seem to sincerely believe the company line that 1080 is a magic elixir for our forests. It is a kind of religion based in a perception that all feral species should be eliminated—absurd as that is when one says it out loud.
However, the more fundamental motivation appears to be money, budget maximization, the bureaucrat’s raison d’etre, some $80 million per year. It is easy enough to espouse this crusade against possums (and highly selected other feral species) when one gets everything from it: increased salary, perquisites, reputation, power, patronage, convenience, and ease of management. They can spend the money with whomever and in whatever way they wish.
As such, aerial 1080 “pest” control is a bureaucratic motivator with irresistible force. In summary, the scientific evidence indicates that we may be doing substantial, possibly irreversible, damage to our forest ecosystem by this inherently anti-environmental practice.
We think it is time to stop, and it is time that DoC stop propagandizing us with infantile unsupported sound bites that pander to emotion. It is time to produce the extraordinary evidence to support this extraordinary practice.
It is time that every New Zealander demand the truth from DoC and it is time to demand that the use of aerial 1080 be discontinued until the real effect of 1080 on us, our forest ecosystems and our environment is demonstrated to be beneficial by competent and independent scientific research.
Our forests, their inhabitants, our international reputation as an environmentally sane nation and perhaps our own long-term health are at stake. Patricia Whiting -OKeefe, PhD (Chemistry), Quinn Whiting-OKeefe, BA (Chemistry, Math), MA (Math), MD, FACMI (The completely referenced scientific report supporting the material in this article is available as a free download from www.thegrafboys.org. Ends.