CONTROVERSY IN PARADISE
New Zealand is proud of its clean, green and pure image. However the use of 1080 poisoning as the main weapon in the war against animals regarded as ‘pests' is an extremely cruel practice.
A cruel and indiscriminate poison, 1080 is used to kill unwanted (‘pest') animals which include possums, feral cats, rabbits, rats and stoats. Its use in New Zealand has been a controversial issue since it was first employed as a pesticide in 1954. Research has shown that the use of this poison is extremely cruel, and dangerous to non-target animals.
WHAT IS 1080?
1080 is the brand name given to the synthetic version of sodium fluoroacetate - a toxic, odourless, white powder compound, which naturally occurs in plants, acting as a powerful defence. However the synthetic version, 1080, is far more potent and kills. New Zealand is the largest buyer of 1080 in the world, using over 80 per cent of the chemical produced.
1080 is distributed in laced bait via ground and aerial application by the Department of Conservation (DoC) and the Animal Health Board (AHB). It is mainly used to kill possums, however other ‘pests', including feral cats, rabbits, rats and stoats, are also targeted.
1080 is banned in several countries, including Brazil, Belize, Cuba, Laos, Slovenia and Thailand, as well as in some states of the United States where aerial distribution and its use on all mammals but coyotes is prohibited.
CRUEL EFFECTS OF 1080
Death from 1080 is cruel and protracted. Animals receiving a lethal dose of 1080 show severe signs of poisoning, with death resulting from heart or respiratory failure. Clinical signs of poisoning include rapid and laboured breathing, tremors and muscle spasms, terminal convulsions and death. It usually takes possums between 6-18 hours to die.
A witness to a possum poisoning commented:
"From about four hours after poisoning until death all lethally dosed possums exhibited spasms involving the limbs or body. Possums vocalised during spasms, tremors or seizures. Vocalisation was loud and prolonged. (Squeaking, gasping and gagging noises were also frequently heard during retching and terminal breathing.) Seizures included stiffening of limbs with hunching of the shoulders; jerks in limbs, head, abdomen or shoulder; leg paddling; rolling onto the back with a stiffened body; continuous body rolling; trembling; and rigidity of the entire body. Possums were sometimes propelled into the air by these movements..."
1080 is not a humane way to kill any animal. Death is painful, torturous and slow.
WHY ARE POSSUMS AND OTHER ‘PESTS' TARGETED?
The Australian Brushtail Possum was first released into New Zealand in 1837 with the sole purpose of establishing a fur trade. They were initially protected to allow numbers to increase. Many human pressures on the environment are more damaging than introduced animals but are not recognised as key threats.
IMPACT ON OTHER ANIMALS
Every year 1080 poison kills non-target species, including dogs, cats, deer, pigs, birds and insects.
Landcare Research remarks that 1080's toxicity can be a ‘disadvantage' in areas where non-target species can access bait. There are concerns for the welfare of non-target animals in areas exposed to 1080, as it is highly toxic particularly to both mammals and insects.
SAFE believes it is our responsibility to treat these animals fairly and humanely. The key viable alternative would be the use of fertility control, which would slowly reduce numbers over time. This has proven effective in other countries, such as on populations of unwanted animals like wild horses and deer in the US.
Landcare Research has been working on developing contraceptive control of possum for many years, stating that it could be more effective than current methods. Using biological control as well as conventional control will slow down the rate at which possum numbers build up. We estimate that such integrated possum control might need to be done only one-third as often as current control with poisons or traps alone.
SAFE is strongly opposed to the use of 1080 as it is a cruel and indiscriminate poison causing target and non-target animals a painful death and harming wildlife and the environment. Use of 1080 should be urgently phased out.
• New Zealand uses over 80 per cent of the world production of 1080.
• 1080 is banned in many countries.
• 1080 is used to target introduced species such as cats, rats, stoats and possums in New Zealand.
• Estimates put the number of possums at anywhere between 30-70 million in New Zealand but there is no definitive figure.
• Possums were introduced to New Zealand in 1837 to create a fur trade.
• New Zealand spends over $80 million on possum control every year.
• Death by 1080 is cruel and protracted and poisoned animals can take hours or even days to die.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
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