Saturday, September 10, 2011

Kea losses to 1080 at Okarito

DOC have just announced that seven kea have been likely poisoned by the recent Okarito 1080 drop. Bugger! In the current political climate that's not a good look. My previous comments about kea deaths from 1080 carrots in the 1960's and 1970's were prophetic indeed.

Believe me, I personally knew the Okarito kea that died. On occasions, these particular birds and I would verbally abuse each other. Why? Because they'd announce my arrival in their territory to all other wildlife, including the deer. Nothing is more annoying to a deer hunter than a squawking kea, or a honking paradise duck, just as you arrive at the most likely spot for a deer. However, please don't assume I'm pleased about their demise. Far from it.

Kea are endearing because they're so damm curious. They just have to investigate anything new in their territory. Poison pellets arriving on bare ground would be irresistible, especially after a non toxic prefeed a week or so beforehand. Losses are inevitable bar using a poison that doesn't kill birds or perhaps poisoning at night if kea are not nocturnal.

The local DOC staff will be gutted as they have made genuine efforts to avoid this scenario. However, kea are not the only birds at risk. Morepork, falcons, harrier hawks, kaka, kakariki, fern birds, robins, and especially introduced blackbirds and finches, are all at risk. Certainly, using cinnamon repellant plus sowing a very low density of baits on the ground minimises losses but as is now aptly demonstrated it does not eliminate them.

DOC has difficult choices with the 1080 issue. Will the post-poison breeding success of birds make-up for those lost? Many bird species are in such low numbers now that any more losses maybe critical to their survival. A big re-think of the predator control strategy is unavoidable. In the meantime, DOC have a public relations crisis to cope with.

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