A kea on Avalanche Peak in Arthur's Pass. Photo by Andrew
A disappointed Department of Conservation has reported
the deaths of seven keas following a recent 1080 pest control
operation on the West Coast that was designed to prevent the
birds eating poison baits.
The department has vowed to keep trying to find more ways to
protect the birds. Tests were being carried out on the birds
to confirm initial indications they died from eating the
baits, Doc's Franz Josef area manager, Wayne Costello, said
in a media release.
The seven birds that died recently were among 38 keas fitted
with radio transmitters as part of a four-year programme to
assess the risks and benefits of 1080 operations on kea
They follow seven kea deaths reported in the Franz Josef and
Fox Glacier area in 2008, with the possum-killing 1080 poison
pinpointed then as the most likely cause of death.
The 2008 deaths added grist to the mill of 1080 opponents
arguing the poison threatened wildlife, dogs, deer and humans
but they did not stop the 1080 drops continuing.
Then conservation minister Steve Chadwick maintained the
poison was still the best tool for protecting native forests
from the ravages of possums, rats and stoats.
Doc started research programmes that, among other things,
investigated bird-repellent baits and sought to identify a
bait that was unpalatable to keas.
Mr Costello said the recent kea deaths were "very
"We know they are inquisitive birds but believed that a new
baiting protocol would be successful in keeping kea safe. Doc
will now be assessing the results and taking them into
account for future operations," he said.
Doc staff were checking for deaths in other bird species but
had not found any.
The recent aerial 1080 operation was three years in planning
and jointly run by the Animal Health Board and Doc.
It covered 30,000ha, including the South Okarito kiwi
sanctuary, North Okarito forest, and a large forested buffer
zone around Franz Josef township.
The operation intended to protect New Zealand's rarest kiwi -
the rowi - from rats, stoats and possums, as well as
protecting local farms from the threat of bovine
tuberculosis, Mr Costello said.
Tracking work showed up to 60% of kea nests were attacked by
The research programme also monitored nests through the
breeding season to assess whether safer conditions for kea
chicks outweighed risks to individual birds, Mr Costello
Doc would be investigating whether any specific circumstances
in the operation could have led to the bird deaths.
It seemed likely the more open nature of the North Okarito
forest was a factor, Mr Costello said.