Before embarking on our recent cycle tour of New Zealand we were unaware of the problems the country is facing with regards its wildlife conservation and the extremely lengths being taken to continue to manipulate it.
For those of you wondering what the hell I am on about here is a quick intro.
1080 is a poison that the Department Of Conservation (DOC) lay and drop all over the country in an attempt to cull ‘kill’ Possums. The number one reason given for this is apparently due to the effect the non native and human introduced species is having on the birds (specifically the beloved and now elusive kiwi) and native tree species, and is nothing to do with the allegations they are guilty of spreading of TB to livestock. It’s just a coincidence that the funding for this is backed mainly by the dairy industry. An industry who themselves also relays on introduced and non native animals and who’s effect over a relatively short time has resulted in huge swaths of deforestation of native bush as well as the full scale pollution of much of the countries water ways.
We have spoken to many kiwis (people not the birds) regarding this issues and there seems to be a running theme that most city folk thought it was, if not a good idea, the least worst way to save the birds and bush. There has been a lot of marketing and health and safety propaganda put out to keep the majority of this large section of the population content. Whilst all of the people actually living amongst nature saw and were at risk of the negative effects first hand and were naturally dead set against its use.
One chap we met that own a large piece of land did follow DOC advice and allowed them to drop 1080 when it initially came out. After the first lay he stated ‘it worked’ possums cease to exist on his patch. Though his forest was now ‘ghost like’ there was not a tweet of bird song to be had. It had indiscriminately killed every living thing! He is now strongly opposed to its use and continues to campaign against it.
All of the hunters we met were also anti 1080, due to the effect it has on the deer and other game ie killing them. Though their reason is so they can still kill the deer instead, something which we don’t agree with, but at least the majority of them ensure its a quicker death rather than the prolonged misery coursed by poisoning. Due to the size of the animal it can take days for a deer to die a slow and painful death from the 1080.
What I can see as an outsider looking in is again humans trying to mess with nature. Before humans NZ’s only indigenous mammal was a type of bat. All the rest had been introduced be it by accident or as a form of food or pesticide. It’s a little bit like the stories of the old woman who swallowed a spider. We introduced rabbits for food and fur, stokes to cull the rabbits, possums to cull the stokes. Oh shoot we have too many possums what’s next, tigers?
Despite the marketing spin DOC try to sell, 1080 does not just ‘work’ on Possums! If it did they wouldn’t put up signs all over the place telling you to keep your dog on a lead and don’t let it get near any animal carcasses or traps for fear of it ingesting 1080 second hand via the dead body of another animal and dying a horrible death in your arms.
This practice is not only killing the animals and fish, it is also posing a real threat to humans! NZ is a very rural country with much of its inhabitants living at least partly ‘off grid’. This is particularly true in terms of water supply, even residents in some areas of Auckland rely solely on harvesting rain water! The result is many people use the waterways and rain collection to supply their families with drinking water and due to the government dropping poison from the sky many water sources are now contaminated. I guess this could be why the city folk don’t seem that fazed by it since the majority are supplied by mains water and through no fault of their own are less connected to the land.
DOC continue to claim the poison is ‘safe’ as it biodegrades naturally over a few months leaving no lasting effect. As one Maori chap put it ‘Don’t believe the marking bullshit the government tell you about clean and green NZ and whatever you do don’t drink the water!’ It seems he’s not alone in his views either.
In fact towards the end of our trip and to make a point to the city dwelling population someone publicly threatened to put 1080 poison into shops baby formulae packets! This had the effect off all baby formulae being taken off the shelves and really got people thinking. If it only targets Possums why worry about it being in your baby food? Probably for the same reason when offered a DOC worker refused to put it in a glass of water, leave the water for the recommend amount of time they say it takes to vanish and leave behind only clean drinkable water and then drink the water himself. Because they know its a lie, but so long as it doesn’t effect them personally they don’t seem to care.
In our opinion NZ has to stop looking backwards to a time that never really existed. A time when the Kiwi and native bush happily coexisted with 4 million humans and their sprawling meat and dairy industries. Why is it some animals are worth saving and others need killing? Before we kill any more innocent animals or drop poison in our neighbours water supply do you not think it is time to take a long hard look at ourselves and ask who’s really having the most destructive and negative effect on this beautiful corner of the globe and what we can do to reverse this trend.