Thursday, October 6, 2011

Department of Conservation respond to 89 dead kiwi post

The Department of Conservation have swiftly responded to the previous blog post, saying my claims were "extremely misleading". 

Their story can be viewed here 1080 kiwi claims extremely misleading

Here is the counter argument...

RE - In response to DoC's "1080 kiwi claims extremely misleading".

Firstly, I'd like to thank The Department of Conservation for the opportunity to raise further issues relating to the poor life expectancy for kiwi in the heavily 1080 poisoned Tongariro Forest.

DoC claim in their response..."we have never lost a single bird (kiwi) to 1080". That's an astounding statement! If DoC had have tested every kiwi that died within the poisoned area, they could make that claim. The fact is, from the information supplied, they haven't tested a single bird for 1080 poison residues from within the Tongariro Forest. Therefore, the claim is redundant. 
Given the absence of randomisation, replication, and controls in much of DoC research, it is difficult to come to any sound conclusion when referring to what the likely outcome would be if 1080 were not used. But taking into account the persistence of the department in defending it's use of 1080, the data would likely be biased - hence the need for blinding.

In their response, DoC also claim ... "Mr Graf fails to point out that chick survival in this forest more than doubled in each of the two years after the last 1080 operation in 2006 when stoat numbers were very low, compared with years without 1080". 

Once again, an astounding statement. Chick survival in the Tongariro Forest doesn't look good, going by the information supplied by the DoC.

The following Information is contained in the DoC OIA ...

Between September 2007 and March 2011 (about 4.5 years) 88 kiwi chicks were fitted with radio transmitters. Of these, only 5 are known to be alive - and of these, 3 were tagged within the last year. 

So, only 2 kiwi chicks, from 85 (88, less the 3 fitted in the last 11 months) fitted with radio tags for a period of between 1 year and 4.5 years, are known to be still alive. That's just over 2%. 

If the 3 chicks that have been fitted in the last year are included, the percentage of known survivors  from the original 88 is just over 5%. But this doesn't mean these 5 birds are going to make it to adulthood. Chances are, they won't. 

Many birds are killed in the sub-adult age group. Of the 38 birds tagged between April 2006 and May 2010, 8 are known to be alive. 

From July 2010, to July 2011, 25 sub-adult birds have been tagged. There has been a 1080 free period in the forest, since 2006 (up until a couple of weeks ago). Of these more recent 25 tagged birds, 22 were still alive as of the 31st of July 2011. 

Of the 67 adult birds radio tagged, 24 are stated as being alive, as of July 2011.
19 are assumed to have been predated on, and 7 classed as "unknown" and "misadventure". (Why were these birds not tested, to eliminate poison as a cause of death?). The remainder dropped their tracking equipment. 

Kiwi can live for over 60 years. If so few kiwi chicks make it to adulthood in the Tongariro, and the tiny percentage that do are likely to be predated on, kiwi look like being extinct in the Tongariro forest within a generation. 

It would seem the data is being selectively analysed by the DoC, and the public are being mis-informed. DoC are focusing on claiming they get a certain percentage of fledgling survival from many species of native birds, including kiwi. Fledgling success has nothing to do with population success. What good is it if a chick lives for a few months and dies, or is killed before reproducing? 

If the data was analysed correctly, and looked at life-span, and not "fledgling success", it would be determined that the use of 1080 for pest control, isn't working. Not only is 1080 poisoning the entire ecosystem, it's endangering the welfare of our native wildlife.

The information being fed to the public is that 1080 is helping kiwi survive, when in fact, there's absolutely no evidence of that. New methodology is needed urgently - not more poison.

Conversely, we are informed that 5% of kiwi in untreated areas make it to adulthood. With targeted pest control, using trapping and non-persistent poisons, (not 1080) that figure could be raised substantially - if the use of 1080 was abandoned. Victor McClean, a kiwi recovery contractor on the Coromandel Peninsula, claims to get over 50% chick survival - without 1080 poison.

As a representative for UnitedFuture, I can say that I will be working hard to ensure that the UnitedFuture policy of banning 1080, is realised - and more responsible, sustainable pest control methods are employed.

Some facts on 1080 poison  - 

1080 is not only a primary (kills victim after ingesting the bait) killer, but also causes secondary poisoning. For example, if a kea eats a poisonous bait, as was the case 3 weeks ago, it will die. If a kea, the only carrion (dead flesh) eating parrot in the world, were to eat a 1080 poisoned possum carcass, it may also die from secondary poisoning. 
Poisoned carcasses can kill for months, even years after primary poisoning occurs.

1080 is persistent, especially in winter. Baits can last for months in dry and cold areas - and in regard to how 1080 breaks down in soil - research is still being undertaken. 

1080 is a broad spectrum insecticide, and many of our native birds are killed by eating poisoned insects. Kiwi are omnivores -  meaning they eat insects, and other types of foods. The Tongariro food supply of many native species has been repeatedly poisoned over the last 35 years. It's hardly any wonder kiwi aren't doing well. We could safely assume many other native species are in the same boat.

We are yet to see the full impact that the poisoning of New Zealand forests is going to have on our ecosystems. 



  1. What has happened to kiwi numbers overall at this site?

  2. The population of kiwi would appear to be dropping rapidly. New birds are introduced into the tagging program, it appears, every year. This gives a distorted result if the analysis isn't focused on a longer time scale. Of 88 kiwi chicks tagged between 2006 and 2011, only 5 are known to be alive. (3 of them are 4 years old, 2 of them are what's left of 11 birds that were tagged this year.)

    Time is the key factor. The longer the birds live in the Tongariro Forest, the far greater the chance of death. Kiwi live for over 50 years, in a healthy environment. In the Tongariro, they appear to be lucky to get to 10.

    This may seem understandable, if predators are a serious issue, as we are lead to believe. however, 1080 is used because it is meant to be benefiting our wildlife. Going by these data, the opposite is true.

    When trying to promote its 1080 programs, the Department of Conservation tend to focus on fledgling success - in many different species, not just kiwi - rather than population success. The reason for this would appear to be because there is no credible benefit to any population of native species through the use of 1080 poison.

    We are told that 1080 is a great tool for predator knockdown, when in fact, it encourages predator populations. The predators (mustelids, cats and rats) can out-breed any of our native species.

    When 1080 is dropped in the forest, many animals, birds and insects are killed. Because there is less competition for remaining food sources, the predators repopulate, quickly. Several research papers (referenced in this blog) have demonstrated this. This doesn't help the native wildlife recover after the poisoning takes place.

    More importantly, DoC are focusing on only a few species of birds, ignoring the species most likely to be killed. It's a disgrace.

    1080 poison not only endangers our wildlife, but also the entire ecosystem. It needs to stop, urgently.