You see signs for this everywhere in Waikanae reserves.
by Tony Orman
Government use of 1080 poison in New Zealand is controversial and seems to command the headlines ahead of other poisons.
But there is a much worse poison — brodifacoum.
Brodifacoum is widely used by regional councils and government agencies such as the Department of Conservation. Typical of its widespread use is Ulva Island near Stewart Island where the Department of Conservation is currently undertaking rodent eradication.
I have come across brodifacoum poisoning notices in the central North Island when trout fishing, accompanied by my Labrador dog. In one case I asked a farmer why the regional council was using brodifacoum for possums. He didn’t know and added that possum numbers were very light anyhow.
Because of the extreme danger to my dog, I didn’t go fishing. Besides, trout fishing a river into whichever toxic baits will have fallen or on the banks, doesn’t make for an enjoyable day’s fishing!
Such cavalier attitude of regional councils – and the Department of Conservation – belies the lethal nature of brodifacoum.
How does it compare to 1080?
Both poisons have a ”withholding period” which means a time must elapse after the toxin’s use before stock can be safely grazed or game animals such as deer, taken for home consumption.
The Ministry of Primary Industries stipulates 4 months for 1080 poison. For brodifacoum it is 3 years i.e. 36 months after poisoning.
The extensive withholding time for brodifacoum is due to its known long-term persistence in the environment and animal bodies.
What is brodifacoum?
Brodifacoum is an anticoagulant, which causes the animal to die slowly and painfully from internal bleeding. As cruel as death over two or three days is by 1080, by brodifacoum it is far more prolonged, in the case of rats within 4 to 8 days and larger animals such as possums, up to 21 days.
1080 requires a user to have a licence to use the toxin but no licence is needed for brodifacoum, for example rat poison sold over shop counters, to anyone, young or adult with no controls whatsoever.
Brodifacoum and 1080 have another similarity, called “secondary poisoning”. In other words a dead poisoned animal remains toxic and any bird or other creature scavenging the dead body, takes in poison and dies.
Scientists C.T. Eason and E.B. Spurr in 1995 in a study “The Toxicity and Sub-lethal Effects of Brodifacoum said insectivorous birds (e.g. bush robins, fantails) are likely to be exposed to brodifacoum by eating invertebrates that have fed on toxic baits; i.e., they are likely to be at risk from secondary poisoning. Predatory birds (especially the Australasian harrier, New Zealand falcon, and morepork) might also be at risk from secondary poisoning by eating birds, small mammals, or invertebrates that have fed on toxic baits.
Predators are greatly at risk. Both poisons are very slow to kill, and especially so with brodifacoum. An animal be mouse, bird or insect, on taking the poison, slowly dies and in its distressed, weakening state, naturally and quickly attracts the attention of predators among them native birds such as bush falcons, hawks, moreporks, pukekos and wekas.
Ecological history is littered with instances following poisoning. For example scientists Eason and Spurr said the “entire weka population on Tawhitinui Island, Pelorus Sound, Marlborough Sounds was exterminated mainly by direct consumption of rat bait (Talon) intended for ship rat control.”
The two scientists said “indigenous New Zealand vertebrates most at risk from feeding directly on cereal-based baits containing brodifacoum are those species that are naturally inquisitive and have an omnivorous diet (birds such as weka, kaka, kea, and robins). The greatest risk of secondary poisoning is to predatory and scavenging birds (especially the Australasian harrier, New Zealand falcon, southern black-backed gull, morepork, and weka)”
The duo added “the risk from brodifacoum will be at its greatest when saturation baiting techniques, such as aerial sowing, are used in eradication programmes.” Such as Ulva Island where DoC is “aerially sowing” brodifacoum.
Seven years later in 2002, Spurr and Eason along with two other scientists produced a study “Assessment of risks of brodifacoum to non-target birds and mammals in New Zealand”.
The quartet of scientists described brodifacoum as “highly toxic to birds and mammals” and listed victims such as the Australasian harrier (Circus approximans) and morepork (Ninox novaeseelandiae), other native birds such as the pukeko (Porphyrio melanomas), weka (Gallirallus australis), southern black-backed gull (Larus dominicanus), and kiwi (Apteryx spp.) and introduced mammals, including game animals e.g. deer.
Other studies have identified the lethal nature of brodifacoum.
Landcare Research scientist Penny Fisher said “because brodifacoum persists in the environment, other birds may suffer secondary poisoning from eating animals that have ingested poison” and cited “a high mortality of New Zealand dotterels following an aerial brodifacoum operation at Tawharanui Regional Park in North Auckland, in 2004. At least 50% of the dotterels in the area at time of operation disappeared or were found dead. Sand-hoppers-common food item of NZ dotterels —ate baits and accumulated brodifacoum and provided a potential route for transmission of the toxin to dotterels.”
Two dead eels found in a Southland waterway had brodifacoum in the gut contents of one and that “suggests the eel had recently ingested food containing brodifacoum, probably through scavenging the carcass of a poisoned possum.”
Brodifacoum similar to 1080, leaves residues.
In 2005 a paper in the New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research, Volume 39, told of freshwater crayfish (koura) with significant 1080 concentrations and 1080 residues in eel tissue that were on average 12 times higher than the PMAV (provisional maximum acceptable level).
The INTERNATIONAL PROGRAMME ON CHEMICAL SAFETY Health and Safety Guide No. 93 said of brodifacoum “as a technical material — is highly toxic for fish”.
Processing poisons for wild animal control/eradication is Orillion a State Owned Enterprise governed through a Board of Directors appointed by the New Zealand Government. Orillion’s safety data sheet for brodifacoum says “may cause long lasting harmful effects to aquatic life.”
Therein lies a threat to not only valued sports fishes such as trout and juvenile salmon migrating downstream to sea, but also native fish such as eels and galaxids.
Sodium fluoroacetate, also known as compound 1080, is the poison around which controversy swirls. Brodifacoum is little known but is surreptitiously used by the Department of Conservation and councils.
1080 is ecologically destructive and damaging to the ecosystem – but brodifacoum is far worse.
Footnote: Environmentalist Tony Orman has spent a lifetime in the outdoors and has had some two dozen books published among them “New Zealand the Beautiful Wilderness”
Brodifacoum warning notices by a King Country trout stream. (Tony Orman photo)
Bush robins are at risk from brodifacoum (Tony Orman photo)
Chris Walker said:
Why don’t these turds just put this nice stuff in our water system so we can get this shit over with?
Sounds mad but this is what these WEF influenced fools want in the end…
Why are these idiots continually pretending they are god and saving something that nature deals with very simply.
We’re trying to compensate for past wrong doings. Keep in mind that humans are also part of nature and some some external force. Are you saying let’s just let some species die off instead of trying to save them? Wasn’t sure what you meant by letting nature deal with it. It’s a pretty awkward situation.
For some perspective, plastic is terrible for our environment and I suspect most people on this forum are still consuming plastic.
Bill Floyd said:
A very good well researched article. I am left thinking what sort of dicks run doc? Clearly people who don’t share my values for this beautiful country. Bill Floyd
Charles Baycroft said:
The pollution of our environment with dangerous toxic chemical is NOT a moral issue.
It is totally political and indicates that the influential members and funders of our main political parties approve of and want to continue this pollution for their own benefit.
The only effective way of opposing this poisoning or other things people disagree with is political activism.
I do not mean protests and demonstrations or asking our government employees to change their ways because the political elites don’t care what the rest of us think or want.
Effective political activism is involement in political parties by ordinary people who wanty to be well represented in their government.
None of the political parties have very many members and very few of these members are active or influential.
People that disgree with the current policies of political parties and government by the political celebrities they have chosen can become influential.
All they need to do is.
Join a existing party but don’t try to start a new one that will never become successful.
Find out where and when the local meetings are held (it might require some persistence).
Infiltrate. Go along to the meetings and offer to help with their political ambitions to learn more about the pary and it’s influential members.
Disrupt. Get more like-minded people to join, participate and support one another by proposing and promoting new ways of thinking.
Reform. “New brooms sweep clean”. New active and influential party members change the culture, opinions, policies and political celebrites of the party.
Most people will say that they cannot be bothered or do not have time to become involved in a political party.
They should admit that they HAVE CHOSEN to allow the small minority of people, who can be bothered and make the time, to decide who will be in our government and what they will do there.
If we have chosen to allow a politically active and influential minority of people to make the decisons for everyone else we should not expect them to take our opinions seriously.
If we want some Real Changes, we have to earn them by becoming active in the political parties of our choice.
Bud jones JonesQSM said:
It is not widely appreciated how this entire chain of poison is kept in motion, but as in many things to find the evil, follow the money back to the source. Here we have a complete package of a nose in the progressive trough from funded “research” to establish a necessity, Manufacturing, transport, & dispensing; more “research” to complete the fraudulent need with a pat on the back for the job well done, leads to a beaten path to the next “job”The public is suitably conned & the money machine spits out for another round .The TV news will cover it with a moedicarrot kea for the loading of the poison bait into the hoppers, chopper ready to fly. Media takes another dolop of funding from the Public Interest Journalism Fund, having satisfied the moedi content clause with the carrot kea & good bye “Key Whore ya”.Livelihoods thrive, cultural guilt niceties are warm & fuzzy, careers are safe science has rubber stamped the expenditure. Everyone is happy apart from 1000’s of animals in horrific pain for lengthy periods before death. But ain’t we done good, saving the earth from those nasty pests?? !!!
This is shameful. Absolutely reckless to be using such a cruel horrible poison. It must be stopped. It should be banned.
Just like plastic.
Jim Martin said:
Brodifacoum is classed as causing suicide, after a studies proved this. This stuff with signs are everywhere in NZ