Monday, 16 September 2013

Will the New Zealalnd Ornithological Society stand by and watch as rare birds are driven to extinction by one man's vanity conservation project?

I thought it would be worth asking a question of you, the New Zealand Ornithological Society.

I’m sure you are all aware of the Antipodes Islands, home to four birds, endemic only to those islands and nowhere else.

They are the Antipodes parakeet, unusual, in that like the kea, it can be a predator, Reischek’s parakeet, can also be a scavenger, the insectivore Antipodes snipe and an omnivore pipit.

There are also mice, French mice it would seem, who have been there for around 200 years. They will have had an impact on the island ecology, but the actual changes are long past and have by now morphed into what is an altered but stable ecosystem where none of the birds are at risk.

You will no doubt be aware of a wealthy Wellington businessman’s vanity conservation project, “The Million Dollar Mouse”. The object of this is to eradicate the mice using methods developed by DoC’s Island Eradication Advisory Group; the group that successfully eradicated bald eagles from Rat Island in the Aleutians. To ensure the complete eradication of mice, there will probably be two drops spreading tonnes of small mouse sized brodifacoum baits to achieve a sufficient field density to ensure there is at least a bait in the range of every mouse on the island.
At such bait density, small baits would be quickly picked up by the parakeets as well as secondary poisoning to parakeets scavenging on dead mice and other creatures. Insects without vascular systems can load up on brodifacoum without obvious ill effect and so could enter the snipe and pipit food chain in much the same way as happened to North Island dotterels at Tawharanui Regional Park at Auckland. A strong case can be made that these rare birds are at greater risk of eradication than the mice.  

What is more, at this stage I am aware of no suggestion or proposal to “ark” a proportion of the population, to hold them out of circulation on the island for more than a year till the extremely persistent brodifacoum residues have reached sufficiently low levels to allow their release, much as is being done by the Australian authorities on Lord Howe Island. But even if there is an ark proposal put in place, what was a genetic base of several thousand birds being reduced to a few hundred leaves them exposed to issues of inbreeding. Further, having a small genetic base leaves the remaining stock vulnerable to any single avian disease spread by far ranging sea birds; it could wipe them all out.

I am unaware of any action being taken by the New Zealand Ornithological Society to protect these birds. It would seem a shame, almost a reflection on you if, on your watch, we lost them all to satisfy the whim of a single attention seeker.

I would be grateful for any views you may have on this.

Monday, 2 September 2013

More poison on the land says Jan Wright, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment. Here's our response:-

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment has again missed the point. That is that 1080, originally registered as an insecticide is a metabolic poison; it kills everything that requires oxygen for its metabolic processes; every bird, animal, insect. It is an ecosystem poison. New Zealand conservation is species based and seeks to advantage native species while eradicating non-natives, as such, it can be readily corrupted by blind bigotry and interestingly, greed. It is a deliberate and wilful poisoning of whole forest ecosystems. It advantages the fastest breeders, particularly rats and stoats; slower breeding natives are disadvantaged. It is driven by a “created” crisis of “pests” which are blamed for killing birds; it is a crisis that conservation organisations are able to use to garner money from public and corporates. The same crisis is used by the Commissioners employer, the state to maintain an over $120 million a year government owned poisons industry. It is the government’s own agencies which spread 1080 over forests, lakes and rivers. Scientists who have raised concerns have lost their jobs or had their funding cut, so the rest go along with it.

It is poisons, not “pests” that are killing our forests and bird ecosystems.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

An open letter to Proffessor Sir Paul Callaghan

Dear Professor Sir Paul Callaghan.
I was quite amazed to see your "sanctuary vision" in the Dominion Post of 9/12/11 which claims the provision of sanctuaries could avert disaster to our native wildlife. It seems an unusual approach to take, but then, someone with your obvious abilities and with the academic resources available to you, would have at least have had a look around the subject, boned up a bit on the science, and what was happening in the field and what information there was. Still, I was surprised. that you went and leapt in on this one.
Naturally you would have studied the origins of our fauna and flora, of how the forests co-evolved with giant browsing birds which are now extinct. I suspect you would have caught ecologist Graeme Caughley’s papers where he argues that excluder fences or exclosures, such as you are proposing, which deny any browse, even exotic browse, means that the forest, and in effect the ecosystem, becomes "un-natural".
I’m sure that when you proposed further aerial poisoning with 1080 for areas outside the sanctuaries, you would have been aware that this poison was originally registered as an insecticide. Your investigations would have shown that studies revealing the disturbing impact of massive 1080 drops on forest floor invertebrates were suppressed within the Department of Conservation.  As a scientist, you must be aware that insects are the base of all forest ecosystems, the creatures that break down forest litter to make forest soils, the base of the food chain for many birds including both kiwi and fantails. When insects are being poisoned on a short cycle, such as in the Tararua Ranges for "Project Kaka" you will soon have a silent forest. No cicadas, no flies, no crickets, and soon no birds! Nothing to do with "pests".
No doubt your investigations revealed that many of the larger birds, such as kea and kaka, are being directly poisoned by aerial 1080 operations such as you propose. Recent kea poisonings include 41% of a radio tagged population in 2008 at Franz, and in September of this year, nearly 80% of a population at North Okarito. Kea are now extinct on much of their former range. Although DoC may claim the culprits are stoats and possum, I don’t think it needs much science to see that there is another very significant factor, ie. poisoning, that is being ignored.
I take it you also read the papers by Ruscoe and others concerning rat plagues which follow a year or so after 1080 operations. This is in part because rats breed so much faster than our native birds, so while everything is knocked back by the poisoning, fast breeding rats are able to recover and occupy the niches of others, and the balance is tipped into the rat's favour to the detriment of the birds. Contrary to claims by DoC and others, stoats food preferences mean that they are often little affected by 1080 operations.
If you were able to get on an Official Information Act request, the minutes of the clandestine steering committee consisting of DoC, Animal Health Board (AHB) and Animal Control Products (ACP, the state owned poisons producer) set up to ensure the successful renewal of consents by ERMA to use aerial 1080, you will find some interesting reading. Amongst the snippets is the information that DoC had been using artificially low costings for aerial 1080 (similar to the figures given by Gerry McSweeny of Forest & Bird on National Radio of 8/6/11). Reading this material, and the statement of corporate intent of the state owned enterprise, ACP, you will probably come to the conclusion that something more is afoot. Here the example of Enron provides an interesting parallel. A large energy conglomerate that is still regarded as a benchmark for corporate malfeasance deliberately created crisis’s to exert leverage on regulators and gain pecuniary advantage. In the case of Enron, they created threats to the electricity supply by deliberately reducing generating capacity during periods of peak usage. The real difference here is that in New Zealand, it is both the state and leading conservation groups that are rogue.
Starting with DoC, they have an association with the Nga Manu Trust, near Levin. This seems to be an open air photo studio where, in contrived settings, vegetarian possum are induced to be photographed attacking fledgling birds. The photos are then widely used in publicity material making possum out to be a threat to our endangered bird life, and hence, along with a lot of similar material, a false crisis in conservation. So too you will find with the Royal NZ Forest & Bird Protection Society, whose advocate, Nicola Vallence , in an effort to talk up a crisis of a possum plague, claims that marsupial possum are different in New Zealand because, although they can still carry only one joey, "they have more babies here". The AHB, by means of poorly policed stock movement controls and ineffective testing regimes, maintains both a created crisis and a body of bovine Tb in the environment to ensure their continued existence. All of these groups make a bogeyman of possum and other "pest" threats to create a sense of crisis which they harvest for leverage and pecuniary advantage in much the same way as did Enron. You’d think that in a normal world, a free press would pick up on this, but when it comes to things like DoC’s and the other players advocacy budgets, media managers will sit mum to avoid de-railing a state sponsored gravy train that they all benefit from. National Radio is just as bad
No doubt you also had the opportunity to check out many of the bio-diversity restoration and "kiwi recovery" type programmes. These are great vehicles for seeking bequests, engaging corporate sponsors and other such fund raising, but did you get a chance to check out the overall impact on the native species involved? One of them, which has Hubbards breakfast foods as a corporate sponsor, is the Kea Conservation Trust. It is claimed that this trust helped prepare the poison baits which lifted the kea kill rate from 41% of a population in 2008 to nearly 80% this year. Good to know that, while eating your muesli, you are at the same time contributing to the extinction of kea in the wild.
Your researches will have no doubt led to DoC "rarebits" where that you may have found the kiwi recovery programmes can have an equally catastrophic effect. Kiwi are interesting, in that they are the only ratite to survive the human invasion of this country. Left to themselves, they have both adaptation and enough nous to get on with their lives, despite that fact, they have become caught up in the conservation "crisis". The usual way it effects kiwi is by having their eggs taken before time for their chick to be hatched and raised to a few months in a hatchery before being returned to the wild, encumbered with a harness carrying a tracking device. They soon fall prey to some predator, possibly cats; and the howl will go up that there is a "pest problem"! To a kiwi hatched in its parent's burrow, there will be the adult mentoring, social bonding and protection by the older birds. Chicks of some, like the Okarito brown or rowi kiwi, can spend up to two years or more with the parent birds and siblings, and by the time they are ready to leave the nest, they are well equipped with all the skills to face their world. Compare that to the hatchery chick! Turkeys may be a good analogy - a bird which in the wild is known for its skill and wary ability to evade predators, yet farm reared birds are, well, just "turkeys". Same too for hatchery reared kiwi; if they don’t die of starvation tangled by their tracker harness in the undergrowth, they will soon succumb to something in what is to them a strange and hostile world.
Is the course of conservation you seek really an over - managed and poisoned conservation estate, where a few "iconic" species are protected from life in the wild, often encumbered with tracking devices to the point where they are no longer viable outside the expensive sanctuaries such as you suggest? Because the land outside the sactuaries will have been so carpet bombed with deadly poison as you advocate, will we only be left with token populations that would face sure death outside the wire? There is an alternative., It will require some courage and it is outlined in my book"The Third Wave – Poisoning the Land" published by Tross Publishing of Wellington. It should be read by all with an interest in our land, its forests and its creatures.
Bill Benfield.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

What will Forest & Bird do if we run out of possums? Why; make some more of course!

What will the Royal New Zealand Forest & Bird "Destruction" Society Inc do when we run out of possum? It seems a funny question to ask, but it is a very important one. There is no doubt that possum numbers are seriously in decline as just a simple road kill count will show. This is due in part to pressure on them for their valuable fur; also, in the conservation lands, slow breeding possum take years to recover from the frequent poisonings by DoC and others.
Should this not be something that Forest & Bird would welcome? After all are they not campaigning to save our forests and birds from a plague of possums? They are a wealthy and powerful incorporated society whose main income stream from the public is generated by claiming to save the forests and birds. The real problem is, can an income stream be maintained if there is no threat to our forests and birds? It seems the Royal Forest and Bird "Destruction" Society thinks not and they are addressing that by inflating the threat, inflating possum numbers, and possum damage to plants and wildlife.
This was so brilliantly demonstrated recently by their advocate, Nicola Vallence, on a TV7 programme of 30/8/11. New Zealand has a special problem, claimed Nicola. "Here possum are not like they are in Australia. They have more babies in New Zealand, and that is why we have a special problem!" The claim is extraordinary as possum are a marsupial, able to carry only one joey in the pouch, they just cannot carry more babies. Even Forest & Bird web sites ( claim there are over 30million possum – seven for every man woman and child. Do you see them out there?
Vegetarian possum are also alleged to kill and eat birds and destroy forests. It is a classic case of invoking a bogeyman, a manufactured threat that needs your donations, your corporate sponsorships and your bequests to save us!
The real evil of this venal and cynical campaign is how Forest & Bird advocate dealing with its possum paper dragon; by the use of aerial 1080. We know poisoning kills off the slow breeding birds like the kea to the point of local extinctions, we know that it kills off the forest floor insects essential to the health of the forest, we know that although it initially knocks rat populations, they "bounce back" to become rat plagues. Forest and Bird, by its advocacy, is the real threat to our unique forests and wildlife.
We can do something about it. Do not donate to Forest and Bird. Do not sponsor them, what is more, boycott their sponsors (and let them know why). Discourage bequests to Forest and Bird. It is only by bringing outfits like this to heel that we can break the 1080 cycle that is killing the land.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

DoC's new take on Tom Lehrer's old song is "Poisoning Parrots in the Park"

Ex DoC scientist Colin Miskelly claims Project Kaka is to prove the efficacy of 1080 poison by dropping it at three yearly intervals across the Tararua Forest Park. It appears they have to do this because after nearly 50 years of 1080, they have so far failed to prove it works. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, he believes Project Kaka will both enhance "indigenous bio-diversity" and provide a "flight corridor" for kaka from Kapiti to Mt. Bruce. Given DoC’s dismal record with kaka at both sites, such as 20% of a radio tagged population of kaka poisoned at Kapiti and six known kaka deaths to poison at Mt. Bruce, kaka with any sense would stay away from both those places and the corridor between them!
The impact of Project Kaka on "indigenous bio-diversity" is even worse. The base of all ecosystems are the insects; 1080 was originally registered as an insecticide and DoC still has a registration for 1080 as an insecticide, so what is DoC doing about monitoring the insects in this toxic havoc it is inflicting on the forest? Well, despite a magnificent bit of convolute bureaucratise, nothing. They are not going to monitor forest floor insects at all.
Project Kaka will do three things. One is to ensure a continuation of the three year cyclic plague of rats, whose population explodes after forest poisonings. Secondly, it will also seriously reduce, possibly wipe out local populations of slower breeding native birds like kakariki and kaka. Perhaps most importantly, the third thing it will do is help maintain a healthy bottom line at Animal Control Products, a wholly government owned poison manufacturing facility in Wanganui. Pity about the parrots!

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Launching a book - "The Third Wave - Poisoning the Land".

Launching was the last act of something that had been worrying me for a long time; New Zealand's extraordinary protection of its rare and endangered species, by poisoning them!  Yes, you got it, poisoning with one of the world's most deadly and cruel poisons, 1080!

As I go on, and learn to drive a blog spot, there will be pictures, and other information to help people fight this evil that New Zealands conservators put upon the land.