Poison drop to go ahead despite threat to kea

Kea were found playing with non-toxic pre-feed baits laid before 1080 was dropped on the area....
Kea were found playing with non-toxic pre-feed baits laid before 1080 was dropped on the area. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery

Zero Invasive Predators Ltd has permission from the Department of Conservation to proceed with its controversial aerial 1080 poison drop in the Perth River catchment near Whataroa, despite fears that it could kill kea.

Weather and other conditions are preventing the poison drop proceeding for the foreseeable future.

Doc said a few weeks ago it was reconsidering its permission for the test-case operation to double the dose of 1080, after the birds were found playing with non-toxic pre-feed baits laid before the poison is dropped on the area.

Zip chief executive Al Bramley said today it was developing a "promising new approach to completely and permanently remove introduced predators from large mainland areas".

The permission is conditional on Zip completing two steps to minimise the risk to kea: locate tahr carcases to provide an alternative food source and foraging focus, and apply non-toxic repellent bait.

"Since the inception of the programme of work, we have worked with kea experts from the Department of Conservation to identify and minimise the risk to kea of the programme of work in the Perth River valley," Mr Bramley said.

On June 29, the carcases of 21 tahr shot by a Doc ranger were placed at 1km intervals along the upper boundary of the Perth catchment in an attempt to lure kea away from the baits to eat the dead tahr instead.

Doc Western South Island operations director Mark Davies confirmed that permission had been granted.

The experimental use of anthraquinone bird repellent would be used to dissuade the birds from eating pellets and the use of tahr carcases to distract the birds would further reduce the risk, Mr Davies said.

"With a precautionary approach, and more time in hand, Doc has asked Zip to work with Doc scientists to further review the tactics developed to keep the risk to kea at minimal levels."

- By Laura Mills

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