1080 attack begins, minus protests
Protesters are expected at a 1080 drop at Piano Flat in northern Southland early next week but none were present yesterday morning as the Department of Conservation began its "Battle for the Birds" campaign.
Four helicopters dropped pre-bait into the 10,500-hectare Waikaia Forest, which surrounds the Piano Flat recreation area, to give rats, stoats and possums a taste of the six-gram bait.
The bait would be dropped with 1080 poison early next week.
DOC science adviser Dr James Reardon said a minimum of five days were needed between the pre-bait drop and the 1080 drop.
DOC would use a deer repellent in the bait to control deer by-kill and there would be a 100-metre exclusion zone around waterways.
Despite opposition to the 1080 drop from Piano Flat crib owners, DOC said the poison drop was necessary to control an increase in rat numbers in the forest which ate the eggs of native birds.
The rat population explosion was because of an abundance of food in the beech forest which flowered and dropped seeds during winter.
With plenty of food available, the rats continued to breed and turned to eating birds eggs when the seeds ran out, DOC said.
DOC Owaka field base ranger Cheryl Pullar said rat numbers had been monitored in 200 tracking tunnels at different altitudes in the forest and 31 per cent had shown rat footprints inside them.
"We had a 30 per cent rat tracking in the Catlins and we started losing mohua in December last year, so to be getting 31 per cent in August in Piano Flat isn't good," Pullar said.
The Waikaia operation would protect threatened mohua populations along with long-tailed bats/pekapeka, robins/kakaruai, yellow-crowned parakeets/kakariki, hectors tree daisy, large land snails and peripatis/velvet worms throughout nearly 7000ha in the forest.
Senior Constable Adam Roberts, of Riversdale, said police were planning for protesters at the drop early next week.
He was one of four police onsite yesterday in case of trouble from 1080 protesters but none arrived, despite Piano Flat crib owners speaking out against the drop at a public meeting last month.
The Southland Times