Pest control & some new 1080 videos

 —  04/03/2010

Are we sitting comfortably? Good, then I’ll begin,

Today we’ve added some interesting videos to our website about our use of 1080 poison. The following is a bit of a background about why we undertake pest control, and how we do it. At the end of this post, you can find links to the new section, and all sorts of information about pest control.


New Zealand has been here for around 80 million years, and as far as biodiversity goes, has been largely dominated by birds, reptiles, and invertebrates. Certainly there were no humans, and no terrestrial mammals (save a few small species of bat). The upshot of this is that we have some lovely avian species that occur nowhere else on the planet. The downside though, is that they evolved to believe that they’re ten feet tall and bulletproof. Many of our native birds (like kakapo or kiwi) make their nests on the ground, and have lost their ability or indeed need to fly.

Noted international conservationist David Bellamy once described New Zealand as ‘The land without teeth’, and the land without teeth we were. That is until we welcomed certain toothed creatures with open arms, into our toothless grin of a paradise.

Public enemy number one: Possums don’t just decimate our vegetation, they also regularly predate upon our birds’ chicks and eggs.

That’s when the trouble started

If you’re from around here, hopefully you’ll already know how these four-legged furries have completely run amok on our native wildlife and their habitats. Possums decimate forests on a nightly basis; rats and stoats raid nests full of eggs and chicks; and we even have unlikely enemies in such cuties as the hedgehog, who scarcely think twice about scoffing ground-nesting birds’ eggs or lizards while on their nocturnal missions.

To me it’s a no-brainer. We either have our unique dawn chorus (once described by Capt Cook as ‘deafening’), or we don’t. And when I say unique, I really do mean unique. There is nothing like our dawn chorus to be found anywhere else on this planet, and to me and the people I work with, that’s something special.

Our native species are national icons: From the kiwi emblazoned onto international rugby league jerseys, to our national Spokesbird who is surely the first parrot to represent a nation. Without these, what sort of icons are we left with?

National icon: Without protection 9 out of 10 kiwi chicks raised in the wild will perish. Photo: Ian Gill

Pest control

We use a bunch of different techniques to control pests here in Aotearoa. Last year for instance, we worked with the private firm Good Nature to develop and implement a self-setting trap to control stoats and possums. Relatively speaking, this innovation is highly cost effective, and we’re now working on one for possums too.

The self-setting trap in action. Photo: Dave Hansford.

Ground control – trapping, culling and using bait stations – is our most widely used method of pest control, but it just isn’t viable for some of our near-inaccessible terrain.

In these cases we use aerial drops of 1080 poison. It is indeed a poison, and it’s quite effective at killing mammals. This puts us in a relatively good place to use it, since we have no native mammals (save our species of bats). It’s quite a different story for us than in other countries, where there are native mammals running around all over the show.

The use of 1080 in New Zealand has been controversial to say the least, largely because as well as being extremely efficient at killing possums, rats and stoats – which devastate our wildlife and forests – it can also kill animals like deer and pigs, which are higly valued by the hunting community. Sadly, this controversy has resulted in misinformation and untruths about our use of the stuff. Sometimes a lot of the facts are missed, either through misleading statements by opponents to 1080 or simply because it’s difficult to understand the chemical nature of how this biodegradeable poison really works (it dilutes and breaks down in water, and the active ingredient in 1080 is found naturally in plants, including tea and puha).

Non-control area in the Karangarua Valley, rata forest decimated by possums. Photo courtesy Andris Apse.

1080 Control area near Fox glacier showing rata forest in bloom. Photo courtesy Andris Apse.

Our videos

That’s why it’s great to be able to provide you with some short videos produced by one of our many passionate staff members, which will hopefully answer some of the questions you may have about 1080.

The videos are made by ‘Trakabat’ (Ian Gill from our West Coast Conservancy office). Ian has a technical background in electronics, and is pretty handy with a camera. Ian reckoned that all the technical expertise and knowledge there is around the subject was being drowned out by ‘all the noise’, so he put together these videos.

The videos have been on his Youtube page for a while now, but we thought they spoke so much sense that we’d embed them on our website too, and tell you all about them. See the first link in the list below for the videos.

We’re the Department of Conservation, and our business is conservation. If we thought that the pest control techniques we currently employ were having a significant negative impact on what we’re trying to protect, then we would stop using them. What other agenda could we possibly have?

Thanks for reading. To read and see more about 1080, check out the following links:


41 responses to Pest control & some new 1080 videos

    Brooklyn Exterminator 03/10/2011 at 8:25 pm

    This is just one of the main reasons why I love visiting this blog. I always found a very interesting article and amazing videos. I learn new thing on how to control pest in reading this article.


    No mention of other birds just these Kea. Will the scientists that were monitoring the use of 1080 in Kea habitats record info of other bird deaths in the area? And why did the baits not work i was told by Avid supporter the baits are tested and do not kill Kea. Have the Dept of Conservation got it wrong once again back to refining 1080. Will they ever admit 1080 is not the way to go.
    And how many Kea in total left now in the World?


    DOC have you got more info on how the Kea died after 1080 drop as reported on radionz recently?

    And were any other birds recovered or just the kea?

    Andrew Pengelly 05/08/2011 at 5:01 pm

    I’m curious why after such a long time of trying that we still have not found a biological control for possums. Australia seems to have accidentally found one for a related marsupial, the Koala so why can’t we. See one of many articles here
    As a biological control the good old STD seems to be the best choice as …
    a) If doesn’t jump species … or shouldn’t.
    b) If it doesn’t kill it will often make host infertile.
    This second point is quite key as unlike the rabbit virus released a few years back infertility is an excellent way to prevent immunisation being inherited by the next generation.
    So come on give it a go. See if Australia can send us a couple of those infected Koalas.


    is DOC against the use of 1080


      Hi Tarina,
      We are not against the use of 1080. 1080 is one of the tools we use to manage pests and predators. When correctly applied, 1080 is very effective. One aerial application can kill 98% of possums and more than 90% of rats in a targeted area. These successful knock-down rates provide vulnerable native birds with a crucial breeding window to raise chicks through to fledging, increasing their survival rate. Learn more about DOC and 1080 here:


    Hi DOC
    Are you able to provide any more info about this report as it seems a little strange. and how the conclusions were drawn and who by?
    Can you tell me the main contact and which DOC office was involved with collecting info?

    The following information is from a study undertaken during the 2010 Waitutu 1080 operation. The report is in the process of peer review and publishing. Note that bad weather killed 18 ruru before the operation and the one that died after the operation was found cached underground by a predator and it tested clear of 1080.

    Of the 31 ra…dio-tagged ruru known to be alive at the beginning of August, transmitters belonging to 18 of these birds were discovered in mortality mode during an aerial status check immediately prior (3 Oct 2010) to the distribution of toxic baits (4 Oct 2010). Ground-based checks of these birds commencing 4 October confirmed that all of these birds were dead and had been for some days (≥10 days). Of the remaining 13 radio-tagged ruru, two transmitters appeared to have failed (intermittent or no detectable signal) leaving 11 radio-tagged ruru known to be alive or detectable within the operational area when 1080 baits were distributed. One of these 11 birds died within three days of toxic bait application. This bird was found cached underground but recovered intact (8 Oct 2010) and subsequently autopsied (Massey School of Veterinary Science) and tested for 1080 residues (CENTOX). No traces of 1080 were found.

    Thanks look forward to your reply.


      Hi Ray
      The statements made in the portion of the report you cite are facts drawn from the results of the bird monitoring carried out as part of the operation.
      Yes, we can provide more information. The Murihiku Area Office in Invercargill, carried out the operation. Staff there will be happy to help with any information, including anything that you find confusing about the ruru results.
      Give me a call if you want to discuss.
      Regards, Colin Bishop
      Murihiku Area Office, ph: +64 3 211 2400


    Another scientist adds her weight to the 1080 debacle
    Background to the Index to the 1080 Decision

    Dr Jo Pollard, an independent scientist from Otago with a BSc (Hons) and PhD in Zoology has created an “Index to the Environmental Risk Management Authority 1080 Decision Documents”.

    This Index came about because prior to 2007 Jo had many unsatisfying debates with a friend from DoC about the value of 1080 in protecting NZ’s biodiversity. It was inconceivable to her that a universal poison would only kill the animals that DoC wanted it to, and her friend’s arguments never seemed to contain any substance. She saw ERMA’s 1080 review as an opportunity to finally see the evidence that her friend believed in so strongly, and started reading the evidence put forward by DoC and the AHB.

    However the more she read the less convinced she became that there was any value at all in 1080. In fact it seemed more likely to be having severe negative effects on biodiversity and possibly human health.

    Jo made written and oral submissions to ERMA and when, incredibly, the ERMA decision was to approve further, more widespread 1080 use, she vowed to make time to review and present the evidence she had read in such a convincing way that people ignorant of its real effects could not possibly argue with the facts.

    The result is the Index. Jo has taken 1624 quotes from the material used in the ERMA decision, and re-arranged them into 49 tabulated sections, such as cancer, biodegradation, biodiversity etc. Each quote appears in the Index along with its source and a reference number. The Index is designed to make access to the information used by ERMA easy and fast.

    Professionally, Jo is dedicated to good quality science and expects that government departments responsible for protecting New Zealand’s biodiversity should be too.

    Her Index demonstrates:

    1. The appalling quality of the data used by ERMA in making its decision and setting controls.
    2. The serious risks to biodiversity and human health caused by 1080.
    3. The lack of any valid data supporting the use of 1080 by the Department of Conservation (DoC) or the Animal Health Board (AHB).
    Below is a flyer Dr Pollard has created to highlight a few of the issues assembled from the ERMA review.
    A copy of her full report is available as a bound index of 186 pages with 49 subjects (eg bats, lizards, TB) for $45, or on disc for $10 from P.O.Box 35, Outram, Otago.

    Dr. Jo Pollard …..
    The 1080 Decision documents(1) contain clear evidence that 1080:
    Spreads as dust throughout and beyond aerial application zones, and rapidly up food chains, rapidly in water.

    Is toxic to all forms of life: microbes, algae, terrestrial plants, invertebrates, fish, birds, mammals. Native birds killed include fernbirds, keas, kakas, moreporks and massive numbers of insectivorous birds such as tomtits and robins.

    Persists in carcasses, baits, tree canopies, dry places, cold places, hot places, cool water, water lacking aquatic plants, acid soils, other soils, and possibly anywhere at low concentrations.

    Reaches high levels after uptake e.g. in fish, insects & koura.

    Causes large increases in rat populations starting from nearly zero to plagues within 2 years, mouse plagues, and rapid buildup of possum numbers, as well as increases in other invasive pests (eg mynas and rosellas).

    Is likely to cause “prey switching”, eg when rats are killed, stoats eat birds instead.

    Has not been shown to be of any benefit to biodiversity (reviewed by Whiting & O’Keefe, 2007).

    Causes birth defects, damage to reproductive organs, reduced fertility, and damage to other organs including heart and brain, in mammals and other animals.

    Contaminates factory and field workers.

    Is particularly risky to human health because it is so toxic, hard to detect, has a long latency period before symptoms occur, and has no antidote.

    Is unsuitable as an effective poison because
    · Toxicity varies enormously with temperature, and between individuals, strains and species of animals, and between pieces of bait. Bait shyness of sub-lethally poisoned possums is a significant problem in 1080 operations · Genetically resistant strains of pests appear when it is when applied repeatedly · Analysis for 1080 contamination is very expensive.

    Was unfairly and inappropriately discussed with Maori in the 1080 reassessment.

    Causes prolonged animal suffering, with sickness, death and permanent debility.

    Is not the best use of farmers’ money for Tb control. All Tb-carrying wildlife & stock in (typically) isolated “hot spots” of Tb should be targeted, using humane, safe methods, if the AHB’s goals can be justified.

    Has been under-reported, due to degradation in samples under field conditions and during frozen storage, and adsorption onto any filter paper used in testing.

    Is of more danger to dogs now since the ERMA decision: the poison is more widespread, signs are smaller and must be removed after 6 months, and no longer have to give 3 days’ warning.

    Has harmful breakdown products including fluoride and (highly toxic) fluorocitrate.

    Was approved without sufficient validation, use of expert opinion, or objectivity, as required by law.


      This is just a quick note to acknowledge your comment of 23 March 2011. ERMA would probably be the best place to direct correspondence on this, as the decision Dr Pollard questions was theirs.


        DOC you need to be told things you need to hear and not what you want to hear.


    Kia ora

    I had only heard about the giant rata-podicarp forests of Whirinaki, an hour northeast of Taupo: enormous rata, rimu, totara, and matai forests, five to seven hundred years old. Seeing them in real life was more spectacular than I imagined. It sent shivers down my spine.

    A lot of the credit goes to DOC and activists such as Stephen King for saving these trees. But these forest giants, and indeed most of our forests, along with our native birdlife are in a state of collapse from a sustained assault by introduced pests.

    The most notable threat is the naive, ill-informed, emotionally-charged and selfish Anti-1080 extremist.

    This pest is intent on seeing our nationally treasured flora and fauna destroyed by removing one of the most useful and misunderstood poisons in our toolbox for pest control. Not only that, they are now terrorising 1080 contractors and their families and defacing the fantastic work DOC are doing.

    In search of a close campsite to Whirinaki in the Minginui area, we came across dozens of DOC signs and buildings graffitied with “Ban 1080”. It looked like the work of just a couple of passionate but embarrassingly misguided anti 1080 extremists.

    The active ingredient in 1080 is a naturally-occurring, biodegradable toxin that plants use to discourage browsing animals. Not only that, low concentrations of 1080 are found naturally in tea and puha.

    Nationally in areas where there has been ongoing pest control, including aerial 1080 drops, the results speak for themselves. The forest and native bird life has bounced back with vigour. I for one want to see more biodegradable 1080 used, not less.

    According to the DOC worker we spoke to, about $10,000 worth of graffiti damage had occurred in one night: a bill the tax-payer will have to pickup. His truck had been pelted with rocks by extremists at a nearby 1080 drop.

    To the anti-1080 extremist: put your selfish interests of deer and pig hunting aside. Take responsibility for you dogs like you would if you had laid rat bait. Stop ridiculous 1080 conspiracy claims. STOP destroying our only hope and start reading. Understand the problem that 1080 solves. If you know how to use a computer, visit the website Put your energies into saving our national forests. The pest problem is so big it will take all of us to work as a team fix it.

    Don’t ban 1080, understand 1080.

    Thanks DoC for all your hard work!


    Hi there,

    I was wondering if you have figures for the 2009/2010 year on what DoC has spent on possum control?
    I am working on my thesis and it would be much appreciated.

    Thank you in advance.

    Jessica Parisi


    Not Everyone thinks 1080 doesn’t enter the food chain.
    Insects are in the food chain of every insetivorous species. if a 3g weta can hold enough toxin to kill a short tailed bat what about the other 130 invertebrates that are known to feed on the 1080 baits. Even maggots that accumulate the toxin 1080 what about all the rotten carcass left in the bush. If 500 to 600 thousand hectares treated with 1080 baits every 10m2 apart this poses a significant threat to the food chain.

    The Wairarapa Community Health Council called for an investigation as to whether or not 1080 was entering the human food chain. They asked Wairarapa doctors to record any miscarriages or heart problems. 1080 drops took place that winter in Wairarapa’s domestic water catchments.

    Later that year, two Wairarapa doctors approached Citizens Against 1080 to express their concern over a cluster of miscarriages. The Wairarapa Medical Officer of Health, Stephen Palmer, was urged not to permit further 1080 drops untill an investigation had taken place. He sought advice from the Ministry and interviewed the two doctors. He concluded they could not convince him that the miscarriage increase was significant, and allowed further drops to proceed in 1996. (Dominion)

    Wairarapa’s miscarriage rate sky-rocketed to almost twice the national average in 96. Dr Palmer says the increase was insignificant.


    When are you going to answer my last post DOC?


    Dear DOC

    Best available data.

    DOC being a responsible Land Manager has come into question by many in recent times. Including myself over the widespread use of 1080 in New Zealand.

    I have recently been speaking with a scientist on this very topic.

    The panel at ERMA who spent 5 years apparently going through the data and apparently failed to recognise and address the issue that this toxin 1080 has been studied in US, our suppliers and found to be a male endocrine disruptor.
    There has been enough significant consensus to establish EPA Environmental Protection Agency to classify as a male reproductive toxin.

    Surely DOC should of pointed out that if our scientist’s in New Zealand have not studied these effects surely the best scientific data should be used when gaps in our own is missing.

    NZ Toxicologist Charles Eason studied and documented birth defects 1n 1999
    but did not finish other Teratological tests and other birth related disorders to establish whether it was indeed an endocrine disruptor.

    Surely with this in mind DOC and ERMA should use the best available data to hand as responsible Land managers and ERMA responsible assessment body?

    The only reference I found on ERMA:

    The Agency considers that a multi-generation reproductive study is desirable to clarify the extent ot the reproductive toxicity hazard. However, such a study is not considered essential to this assessment, as effects have been assumed to be serious and relevant to human exposures.

    If 1080 is proven to be an endocrine disruptor and this does disrupt reproduction systems in animals and birds then adverse effects evidence will not show until offspring attempt to breed.

    If DOC or ERMA acknowledge and accept possible endocrine disruption the safe water levels we currently use are based on Charles Eason’s study
    done in 1999 and based on acute levels of a 70kg person this may need to be change for much lower chronic levels and to include risks posed
    to children of much lesser weight than 70kg.

    You are either taking a big risk with the long term fertility of the wildlife you are trying to protect.
    or that the (best data available) in US EPA is not worth paying attention to?

    If I were on the ERMA Panel,. I would have insisted this be confirmed without any doubt before allowing the widespread use of aerially dropping 1080
    anywhere near water catchments, human habitation or any endangered animal species.

    Does this not seem responsible to you DOC?

    DOC uses the best available data.


      Hi Ray,

      There are two questions here:
      The first is “Could birds reproduction be affected by 1080 and does this affect their ability to produce healthy offspring?”
      Balcomb et al. 1983 fed European starlings sublethal doses of 1080 – 13.5 mg 1080/kg diet per day for 4 weeks. At the end of the 4 weeks the birds fed 1080 had slightly small testes (by weight) than the ‘control’ group (i.e. birds not fed 1080). This difference was not significant. It is not clear whether this lost in testes weight had any affect on the birds reproductive ability.

      Secondly there is the question about 1080 being an endocrine disruptor i.e. it affects the longer term ability of the population to reproduce.

      Neither 1080 nor its active metabolite fluorocitrate bound to human androgen or alpha oestrogen receptors, or to Rainbow trout androgen receptors during in vitro assays (Tremblay et al. 2005). 1080. Additionally, fluorocitrate did not bind to sheep oestrogen receptors during in vitro assays (Tremblay et al. 2004). No one has looked at whether 1080 is an endocrine disruptor in birds, but this is highly unlikely to occur based on Tremblay et al.s’ studies.

      Therefore, while 1080 is a male reproductive toxicant (i.e. reduces testes weight), it is not considered an endocrine disruptor. 1080 is unlikely to have any long term effects on bird populations through a reduction in their reproductive potential following exposure to sublethal amounts of 1080.

      We also can note that in Tongariro Forest, an area subject to multiple applications of 1080 since about 1975 species such as kiwi, fantail, blue duck and tomtit have high rates of recruitment and survival of juveniles following aerial 1080 applications. Conversely recruitment and survival of juveniles is low outside the effect of such treatments. It is also notable that most remaining viable whio populations are in areas that have been and/or continue to be subject to aerial 1080 operations e.g. Tongariro, Retaruke, Pureora, NW Ruahine, Whakatane areas. This observation suggests that long-term decline of this species is not driven by applications of aerial 1080. Similar observations can be made for other species including kiwi.


        Dear DOC
        Thanks for finally answering its strange you picked Tremblay study when there is much more available Data on this matter.

        I see you are referring to the Australasian Journal of Ecotoxicology vol 11 pp 155- 162 Tremblay et al study however.

        Balcomb and other scientists points out it still remains an endocrine disruptor all though not in the same way as typical endocrine disruptors like DDT. “albeit not through specific activator at hormone receptor sites (as with current recognized EDC’s)

        Twig (1994) fluoroacetate is known to cause a reduction in animal fertility, and points out that both acute and chronic effects need to be taken seriously.

        lead to reproductive tract and infertility disorders Adam 1995,Strauss et al.

        OSH seem to be aware of potential risk to humans if were exposed.

        Sufficiently prolonged sub-lethal exposure

        Two other Scientists have warned of Long term health and effects on New Zealand Wildlife or Humans, through reproductive dangers and endocrine concerns. Weaver 2003; Lyver et al 2004.

        Why do you not accept the data & concerns and warnings from the above Scientists DOC?


        This seems to be coming down to how different people define what an “endocrine disruptor” is. The Tremblay et al studies were designed to answer whether it was an endocrine disruptor based on the standard definition of endocrine disruptor (and therefore answer the concerns posed in some of the earlier papers e.g. Weaver 2003). 1080 doesn’t pass through food chains so whole populations are not going to be affected.

        Dr Charles Eason a leading toxicologist advises: “Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs) cause special concern and are classified by toxicologists as chemicals that have oestrogenic or antiandrogenic activity. EDCs like DDT and dioxins are complex molecules that mimic natural hormones by binding to their receptors in the body. Neither1080 or fluorocitrate, the toxic metabolite displays oestrogenic or antiandrogenic activity”.

        The responsibilities for protecting human health lie firstly with ERMA who set the framework around which a poison is used, and then the Ministry of Health, through the Medical Officers of Health in each region who are charged specifically with protecting public health and safety. The department operates strictly within the law and, in effect, under license to ERMA and with the consents sought and obtained for each operation by the MOH.


    Hi DOC

    Thanks for the links to more info after reading, I must say I have become increasingly more concerned.

    My concern when DOC says only a few native birds die as a result of 1080 exactly how few are we talking about?

    A few as in a handful
    A few hundred, thousand or a few million? Could you please give a more appropriate amount?
    The same for insects as DOC report only few seem to be affected by this patented insecticide/pesticide.

    Are you able to give me the collateral damage caused the estimated amount of bird deaths estimated from 1954 to 2010 the time 1080 has been used and applied in New Zealand.

    I am still quite concerned if DOC know only small amounts are lethal to birds.
    and it is possible sub lethal amounts can cause reproductive and hatching success.

    DOC surely must be concerned. critical list’s getting longer and reports with the continuing declines in common widespread native birds, even with almost the Worlds total supply of
    Sodium Monoflouroacetate 1080.

    The overall numbers of birds are still declining even after 30 years of study. If DOC continues to use this regime or system and even if it increase its doses
    in a bid to rid these pests, or obtains or manufacturers more of the world’s supply of 1080 is this going to contribute or increase further decline of bird species?

    I appreciate the availability of this site and DOC answering the concerns of the General Public.

    I have tried very hard to look at the facts and still not convinced the benefits do outweigh the risks.

    Ray Foxley


    I am concerned over the deaths of the Mountain Kea. I watch them pick at everything from Bike tires to poison carrots. Exposure to the poison is everywhere and The birls of NZ are one of the many wonderful creatures it kills. I can’t understanda country that claims to be so Green and clean that would use 1080 that is banned in most of Europe and all of the USA.


      Hi Jerry,

      Thanks for your comment.

      Kea die from a whole variety of causes (including one death from chocolate eating). Prior to them being given full protection in the 1980’s it is estimated that 180,000 were shot on high country farms because of their sheep scavenging habits.

      In the mid 1990’s a hunter shot 29 of them in one incident because they are apparently vandalised his bike.

      An Animal Health Board operation around Franz Josef killed 7 kea in an aerial 1080 operation.

      Subsequent to that we have monitored 45 kea in 4 aerial 1080 operations and none have died. We are confident that the benefits to kea from removing predators will outweigh any risks from them eating 1080.

      1080 is still used in the USA for coyote control. The reason why NZ is well suited to 1080 use is that we have only 2 species of native mammals but our birds and bush are being plundered by a range of mammalian predators.


    Thanks for reply
    could you confirm this information correct

    DOC’s list of threatened species which was updated in January 2007 had 416 extra species on it. Forty native bird species are considered by DOC to have considerably worsened in status, while four have improved.

    I found this article. I presume these birds species are the ones that have improved overall.
    A government pest ecologist says more work is needed to find out how rare birds respond to new methods of applying the poison 1080.

    Department of Conservation ecologist Dr Clare Veltman said there had been enough studies in the past 20 years to be very confident that kokako, kiwi and kaka were at low risk from 1080.

    I was wondering if you had the critical list for January 2010.

    My concern was I keep hearing how fantastic the bird life are doing after 1080 drops,someone from Trakabat post videos and tapes but this does not seem to reflect the overall situation. Even on Islands where predators are removed their still seems to be decline.

    Limitation in the absence of predation
    Island populations free of predation by introduced mammals exhibit demographic evidence of other limiting factors, including disease (hihi, Armstrong & Perrott 2000), food shortage (kaka, Moorhouse 1991; kakapo, Elliott et al. 2001; kakariki, Greene 2003), low hatching success and infertility (Briskie & Mackintosh 2004; SI saddlebacks, Hooson & Jamieson 2004; SI robin, Mackintosh & Briskie 2005; Boessenkool et al. 2007),

    My Concerns are that if it is possible than 1080 could somehow effect reproduction even in a minor way to birds and other species is there a possible chance DOC could have overlooked certain risks?


      Hi Ray,

      The Department is currently conducting a 6 year research project at three sites to assess the long term effect of aerial 1080 baiting for pest control on the dynamics of prey species at sites with predator control.

      At each site bird call measurements are made using electronic sound recorders both before and after pest control. Also the the long term survivorship and productivity of birds. The focus species at each site is rifleman. At each site they will be captured, banded and their nests monitored.

      The ‘Conservation status of New Zealand birds, 2008’ is available in the following journal:
      Notornis, 2008, Vol. 55: 117-135

      Thankyou for your comments.


        Hi DOC

        Thanks for info
        I am pleased to hear reviews undertaken on possible effects.
        As I do believe a very cautious approach needs to be taken in case irreversible damage does occur.
        Especially where there is uncertainty about the cause of so many bird deaths.

        Can you tell me if there has been any tests done on Insects to see how much toxin they can consume and hold?

        If the insects that have been feeding on 1080 baits or on dead carcasses still with the toxin un-metabolized. What levels have been detected in the Insects?
        Could they contain enough toxic residues to harm say a tomtit?

        How many insects would they have to eat before mortality?
        If an Insects dies from toxin 1080 and get dehydrated. The Safety Data Sheet says dehydrated carcasses remain toxic for indefinite periods, would this also apply to insects. Would there be enough supply of dehydrated toxic insects to cause harm to tomtits or other insectivous birds?

        When I researched further I found this info:

        A range of studies have reported invertebrates feeding on 1080 baits and on carcasses of poisoned animals, indicating a risk of poisoning to susceptible species (e.g. Notman 1989; Spurr & Drew 1999; Sherley et al. 1999). This risk remains during the period where any uneaten baits laid for possum control have not degraded. Following sub lethal exposure invertebrates may contain residual concentrations of 1080 before it is metabolized and excreted, presenting a short term secondary hazard to insectivores (e.g. Booth & Wickstrom 1999; Lloyd & McQueen 2000).

        The available evidence (i.e.. a consideration of the diets, the species of birds killed, and the amount of bait probably required for a lethal dose) indicates that most of our land species should be regarded as being at risk of being killed by feeding directly on poisoned baits or secondarily on poisoned prey. most of the small insectivorous birds probably require only a tiny fragment of bait (les than 0.1 g:
        perhaps just one mouthful) to receive a lethal dose of 1080.

        Lower concentrations of 1080 have been detected in weta collected alive in the forest up to 4 weeks after 1080-poisoning operations (Eason et al., 1993).

        My other concern was while tramping from Takaka to Marahau last week, I could not help to notice how many puddles there were around. If the baits that drop 10m apart and leach into the puddles. A standard 0.15% 1080 bait I understand for a Tomtit lethal amount 0.1g would be enough to kill it.

        Maybe the puddles are 1 to 2 litres of water would there be enough toxin from 1 leached bait to affect a tomtit if it drank from that puddle, What if it drank from the same puddle for a week?

        Just my thoughts I would be very satisfied to know DOC have looked into all possible potential outcomes.


        Check out this information on the Lincoln University website:

        This website contains excellent information using a food web approach to look at organisms potentially exposed to 1080, then to studies of the exposures.

        For 1080 levels in insects collected from baits, use Lloyd and McQueen 2000, An assessment of the probability of poisoning of forest insectivores following an aerial 1080 possum control operation. New Zealand Journal of Ecology 24: 47-56.

        Forest passerines are very small, so even if LD50 is higher for birds than for carnivores the amount needed to kill them is tiny. Therefore, they are more likely to be dead than to be sublethally poisoned.


    Thanks for reply
    However unlikely in the field for a bird to consume enough sub-lethal amounts of 1080 toxin.

    Does DOC acknowledge and accept the fact that if a bird is subjected to enough sub-lethal amounts over a period of time it has the potential to affect its reproduction and possible hatching success.


    Please can someone from the Department of Conservation confirm if a bird consumes enough sub-lethal amounts of 1080 toxin. Is it true that it could damage it capabilities to reproduce healthy offspring and possible hatching success.


      Hi Ray,

      Thanks for your question. Firstly, birds are significantly less susceptible to 1080 than most mammals. Some effects of sub-lethal exposure on reproduction have been reported in the scientific literature but most studies have been undertaken on rats. Observed effects have been greater in animals exposed to multiple sub-lethal doses in comparison with animals exposed to single doses.

      In a study of starlings fed sub-lethal doses of 1080 over a four week period researchers reported a statistically non-significant reduction in testes weight.

      With a typical 1080 pest control operation, non-target animals will only be exposed to the toxic bait for a short period of time and the bait will usually be presented in a form (colour, size and smell) unattractive to birds. Therefore, for birds, the chance of long-term, high-level exposure to the toxin is unlikely.

      Any theoretical risks can be placed against the recorded outcomes of pest control operations where those operations have been undertaken to enhance bird populations. In Tongariro Forest, for example, the number of whio fledglings per adult pair doubled and female survival also increased after 1080 operations in 2006/2007 and 2007/2008. Kiwi chick survival increased about three fold in the two years following these 1080 operations as did fantail nest success rate. In a similar study in Pureora Forest researchers found significantly greater productivity for tomtit and robin after 1080 treatment than before.

      In south Westland a recent study found that populations of kaka, bellbird, tit and kakariki in two areas that have programmes of 1080 and have received several doses of 1080 in the past have more birds that the areas that have never had 1080. While this finding cannot be confidently claimed as an outcome of the 1080 use it at least indicates that wholesale loss of bird populations in the 1080 treatment area is not occurring in this location.

      We also note that the animals most likely to receive sub-lethal doses of 1080, i.e. the target pests that survive operations, have high rates of population recovery indicating that effective reproduction is not reduced by exposure to the toxin.


    Can I get any compensation from your department as to relating of a poison of 1080 dropped near my son’s farm who had my dog bounce. She ate because of helping herd sheep, this was near Aria just last month too. I am not very happy about this happening because it happened on private land as well! without any information to the farms owner! She is a registered dog under CHB Council too.


      Hi Jill,
      We’ll be in touch with you directly so we can get more details about the operation you are talking about – where it happened, whether it was a DOC operation etc.

    jono knuiman 23/03/2010 at 10:36 am

    how effective is 1080? and what are some of the alternative to 1080?


      Hi Jono,

      Thanks for your questions.

      We’re always looking for alternatives to 1080, and already employ a range of them. We run some wide trapping networks, and have recently developed a ‘self setting trap’ for rats and stoats that makes trapping much more economical than it has been in the past. We’re looking at one for possums as we speak.

      Ground control (a mix of trapping and poison bait) is one of the most widely used methods of control, and where it is more cost effective, we will use it. We mainly use aerial 1080 drops in challenging ‘mongrel country’ where it is either not cost effective to employ ground control or where it would be unsafe for staff to undertake ground control in these areas.

      1080 is highly effective at killing invasive mammalian species, yet birds and insects are less vulnerable to it’s toxin. Where other toxins available to us would take up to a week to kill the pests, 1080 will take up to 12 hours.

      Landcare Research scientists estimate that over 25 million native birds are killed each year by invasive predators. Animal Health Board are spending up to 70% of their annual research budget to research alternatives to 1080. Here at DOC we have invested over two million dollars into 24 research projects over the last 5 years. This too is for discovering alternatives to 1080 for pest control.

      Thanks again for your question, I hope I may have been some help.
      Sam O’Leary
      DOC Web Team

    Nigel Pettit 04/03/2010 at 2:09 pm

    Is it also true that 1080 poison drops have also killed some of the native birds that the pest control is supposed to be protecting?


      Hi Nigel,

      Thanks for your comment, and for your question.

      It is certainly true that small numbers of native birds have suffered as bykill, as you will find with any method of pest control. For instance leg traps virtually wiped out kiwi in the Hawke’s Bay, and ground bait cyanide has been a real problem with the inquisitive weka on the West Coast. The real issue here is that an estimated 25 million birds are being killed each year in the bush (ref J.Innes – Landcare Research scientist) and it is our strong belief, based on 50 years of experence with aerial 1080 operations, that the benefits of its use far outweigh the negatives.

      Sam O’Leary
      DOC Web Team.