Sodium fluoroacetate (1080) in relation to its use in New Zealand revisited: A 2021 review

Traps, poisons and hunting are pest control tools used internationally for crop protection and to restore ecosystems, particularly on islands and continents where introduced mammals endanger native species. Sodium fluoroacetate (1080) is a vertebrate pesticide, initially developed in the 1940s, principally used to control unwanted introduced mammals in New Zealand and Australia. During the last ten years, there have been over 260 new research and review publications, specifically on 1080 in scientific journals. These publications supplement a body of scientific information regarding mode of action, natural occurrence, toxicology, including poisoning incidents and antidotes, metabolism and fate in the environment and risk to non-target species. Multi-year studies now go beyond immediate non-target impacts and explore ecosystem-level outcomes, including population-level changes for multiple native bird species following the sustained removal of predators. Numerous review publications on community attitudes to pest control and the merits of different tools and techniques have been stimulated, in part by the Predator Free NZ 2050 campaign, and these are summarised. Many sectors of our communities would prefer not to use poisons for pest control, particularly if applied aerially. If 1080 is to continue to be used in New Zealand, research still needs to focus on additional improvements in target specificity, particularly concerning the interactions of kea and game species with bait, and address any new questions raised by regulatory agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA; formally ERMA), communities, and iwi. Additionally, there is a need to innovate how different pest control tools are used and advance close-to-market tools with the highest public acceptance, such as species-specific poisons and more targeted bait delivery or trapping systems. Community engagement should continue to be open and transparent, highlight risks and benefits, and seek consensus. In most cases, consensus will involve an integrated approach to pest control using acceptable levels of both aerial and ground-based tools. Greater acceptance of any pest control tool occurs when use is discussed within the context of long-term goals for saving endangered species and ecosystem recovery, with communities that treasure the restoration of their landscapes. However, values are changing, such that no (or minimal) pesticide use is a theme that is increasingly mainstream. In this changing environment, strategies that rely on 1080 or other toxins as one-off treatments for eradicating pests or disease versus continued application for maintenance control are likely to be more and more important.
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© Department of Pest-management and Conservation, Lincoln University, New Zealand
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