Don’t be fooled by fake news

Department of Conservation —  16/10/2018

New Zealanders care about nature and it’s our job to protect it.

There’s been a lot of discussion recently around our use of biodegradable 1080 to control predators.

The biggest threat to New Zealand’s wildlife is introduced pests like rats, stoats and possums – about 80% of our bird species are at risk of extinction.

Stoat with chick. Photo by Dave Hallet

Stoat with chick. 📷: Dave Hallet

We use 1080 because the rate at which introduced predators are eradicating our native species is too fast, too brutal and too widespread for us to do nothing. We must act.

1080 is proven to work safely, effectively and efficiently in reducing predators, and we need to use it to save our native wildlife and forests.

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment completed an independent report into the use of 1080 in 2011 and supported using this tool.

There is plenty of scientific evidence proving 1080 is very effective at saving our species.

We rely on external, independent scientific advice to assess risks associated with 1080 use. When used in accordance with New Zealand regulations, 1080 presents little risk to humans or the environment.

Yet some are ignoring the facts in favour of Fake News.

Don’t get swayed – here’s the truth:

These 50 North Island Brown kiwi were killed by cars and dogs

These kiwi were killed in the Kerikeri region by dogs and cars, and their bodies were collected by our Bay of Islands staff over a period of three years.

Local community group Bay Bush Action Group posted this image online to highlight the risk cars and dogs pose to kiwi.

Kiwi killed by dogs and cars. Photo by Bay Bush Action group

Kiwi killed by dogs and cars. 📷: Bay Bush Action Group

Anti 1080 people took this image without permission and falsely claimed the cause of death was 1080.

We’ve monitored more than 600 kiwi during and after 1080 operations over the last 10 or more years, and not a single one has been found to have been killed by 1080.

In fact, 1080 is a crucial tool to keep kiwi alive and grow kiwi populations.

The local community group who first posted this image on Facebook were clear about the facts and were upset to learn anti 1080 people were using it to make fraudulent claims.

Read more here.

A bait pellet is mostly cereal

In one bait pellet, there is a mix of cereals, sugars, binders, flavour and dye. Some also have a deer repellent coating added after manufacture. The 1080 makes up only 0.15% of a single pellet.

Pellet baits come in different sizes. Typically, we use 6-gram or 12-gram pellets. The 6-gram pellet contains 9-milligrams of 1080 and the 12-gram bait has 18-milligrams of 1080.

To keep that in perspective, 9-milligrams is about the weight of one third of a single grain of rice.

1080 pellets. Photo by Herb Christophers.

1080 pellets. 📷: Herb Christophers

Over the more than 60 years that 1080 has been used for pest control in New Zealand, its use has been constantly refined and we have learnt more about how to use it effectively to get the results we want and to reduce risks. Past methods included spraying 1080 on carrot bait or 1080 jam, but today we aerially place these cereal pellets (pictured).

Today’s baits are typically dyed green to deter birds and scented with a lure (usually cinnamon), to make them attractive to possums and rats but not birds.

Read more here.

1080 is highly soluble in water

If a 1080 bait pellet gets into water, the 0.15% of 1080 starts to leach out and dilute immediately.

The 1080 then biodegrades into non-toxic products.

After aerial 1080 operations, water samples from drinking water supplies and natural waterways are often tested by independent scientists (such as Landcare Research) for the presence of 1080.

From 1990 to September 2018, 3,701 water samples have been tested. Of those, over 1,300 samples were collected from human and stock water supplies, and only five contained traces of 1080, all of which were less than two parts per billion, which is well below the Ministry of Health’s guidelines for drinking water.

Read more here.

No one has ever died as a result of a 1080 operation

DOC’s Pestlink report database contains records of more than 330 aerial 1080 operations since 1987/88 – and this number doesn’t account for earlier operations before this database was started.

No human has ever died as a result of an operation in New Zealand.

In the 1960’s, a hunter died because he ate 1080-laced raspberry jam bait he had in his home. We no longer use this type of jam bait and there are stringent rules about how toxic products are stored and controlled.  No individual should be in possession of 1080 baits.

Read more here.

We calculate bait placement using GPS

The process for distributing 1080 is rigorous and scientific.

Before an operation, the treatment area is defined and checked, and any exclusion zones within that are identified. These boundaries are uploaded into the aircraft’s navigation system.

The navigation system provides directional guidance to the pilot, including warnings if the aircraft is going off track, and it also records the aircraft flight path. During the operation the tracking data is downloaded periodically and analysed for coverage and compliance with consents and design.

Between 3-6 baits are dropped per area the size of a tennis court. Depending on the terrain, the aircraft typically fly fight lines that are 150 – 200 meters apart to achieve the required coverage.

Pilots download their flight paths to a GIS person at the loading site during the operation and the flight lines are checked against the plans and checked for gaps. Corrections can be made on the day of the operations.

In the extremely rare event the GIS data identifies that bait may have been distributed into an area where it shouldn’t have been, there is a strict process to follow. This includes incident reporting to consenting authorities and a report to the Environmental Protection Agency within 24 hours; as well as an on the ground response as determined by the operations manager. This could include reporting to police, searching the overflow area to remove baits, removing stock and additional alerts.

Read more here.

Avoiding Fake News

Dr Jess Berenston-Shaw, a researcher and communicator, recently wrote about misinformation in the digital age for The Spinoff.

Screenshot from The Spinoff.

Screenshot from The Spinoff.

She writes about the importance of values, and that’s key for discussing 1080 as a pest control tool.

1080 is a toxin, and its use has to be managed very carefully. We use it because if we don’t, our rare and precious wildlife will become extinct.

Stoats, rats and possums are a key threat to the birds, plants and bats that are only found here in New Zealand. These pests are known for killing birds and then raiding their nests to eat chicks or eggs as well.

The topics above come up on social media a lot, and they colour the news as well. Then the sheer volume and frequency of anti-1080 discussion gives it more legitimacy than is warranted.

It’s a real concern for us when people who are new to discussions around pest control and looking to understand our use of 1080 aren’t able to find accurate information amongst all the noise; or aren’t willing to – it’s hard when even unrelated news gets hijacked.

Be vigilant against fake news

Do your background research, and if something sounds so outlandish it’s a wonder that the New Zealand Government allow it – they probably don’t. Our job is to save native species through reasonable and strictly regulated means.

Our website is a great source of science and fact, but there are plenty of independent sources as well, we’ve listed some below.

If you have further questions about 1080, please submit them through our website.

Further reading

Sources independent of DOC

Forest & Bird’s 1080 FAQ:

1080 the Facts (a joint Initiative between Federated Farmers – Forest & Bird):

Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s full review:

And a summary:

Science Writer Dave Hansford on his book Protecting Paradise: