Delivering 1080 Alternatives in 2010 and Beyond?

‘1080 poison is a metabolic poison which, when ingested, interferes with the energy-producing cycle that takes place within an animal’s cells. The active ingredient of 1080 poison is sodium monofluoroacetate. This compound is one of many that have evolved in plants as a protection mechanism against browsing.’

A Guide to Understanding the New 1080 poison Code of Practice Assessment Procedures,

Department of Primary Industries and Water, Tasmania, 2009.

Each year 1080 kills thousands upon thousands of native Tasmanian animals. There death is slow and painful, prolonged and distressing. Animals stagger around, thirsty, frightened, disoriented and convulsing, sometimes for days, until they succumb to central nervous system collapse, coronary or respiratory failure or are attacked by predators which they cannot fend off due to paralysis. On average an adult brush-tail possum takes 11.5 hours to die after ingesting 1080 poison, leaving any pouch young to starve or freeze to death. A 1987 RSPCA Report, Incidence of Cruelty to Wallabies in Commercial and Non-Commercial Operations in Tasmania, recommended the use of 1080 be banned on the grounds of its excessive cruelty. Twenty-three years later the Tasmanian government continues to ignore the concerns of both the local and international community by allowing the widespread application of 1080 in Tasmania on private land.

During the 2008–2009 financial year, 0.969kg of pure 1080 concentrate was used across Tasmania in order to ‘control’ native browsing wildlife in agricultural (33 percent) and forestry operations (67 percent predominately in the north of Tasmania). This equates to enough poison to kill over 300,000 adult brush-tail possums (average weight of 3.5kg, **LD50 of 0.7mg/kg) or over 600,000 adult pademelons (average weight of 6kg, **LD50 of 2.2mg/kg). (These figures are based on each animal consuming a standard amount of pure 1080 concentrate under controlled conditions, where all baits are consumed). These statistics indicate a staggering 44 percent increase on the previous financial year’s 1080 use, which was 0.675kg of pure 1080 concentrate.

In 2005 the Tasmanian Community Forestry Agreement (TCFA) was formed under the then Prime Minister John Howard and Tasmanian State Premier Paul Lennon as a result of public outrage and widespread condemnation of broadscale forestry practices which involved mass poisoning of native wildlife. The Alternatives to 1080 Program was born out of the TCFA and aimed to investigate alternative control and management techniques for damage caused by native browsing animals. The program set out to develop and trial non-lethal control techniques and preventative measures, such as fencing, seedling stockings (protective stocking made from fine plastic mesh) and chemical deterrents.

The Alternatives to 1080 Program will deliver its final report to the federal and state governments in early 2010, but then what? The program has successfully trialled and developed a number of alternative management options for plantation establishment, including non-lethal fencing and both physical and chemical deterrents. Successful fencing trials have been conducted across Tasmania and the publication of the handbook Wallaby Proof Fencing – A planning guide for Tasmanian primary producers, has proven popular with land managers. Fencing is a costly activity, however, with current wallaby-proof fencing materials and erection costs in excess of $8000 per kilometre. The cessation of the Alternatives to 1080 Program funding in early 2010 will mean financial assistance for land managers wanting to erect fencing will also cease unless governments are willing to commit further funds. Similarly, plantation forestry research is promising, but it needs to be continued so that it can be shown to be commercially viable and picked up by the industry. The Forestry Cooperative Research Centre has already committed funding beyond 2010 to continue research and implementation of 1080 alternative measures for plantation management and the TCT urges the State and Federal Governments to follow suit and continue to support collaborative projects. Without a commitment from governments to continue the program, we will be left with 1080 as the prime control method for most forestry and farming operations – or, even worse, 1080 will be replaced with another poison, Feratox.

Feratox is an encapsulated form of cyanide developed to target brush-tailed possums in New Zealand and is being examined as one of the possible alternatives to 1080 to control browsing animals in Tasmania. It was public opposition to poisoning of native wildlife that created the political pressure necessary to get Premier Lennon and Prime Minister Howard to agree to create the program. Now it seems that the State Government may simply replace 1080 with another poison. Although cyanide kills more quickly than 1080, many of the problems remain – it is still a lethal method, there is still suffering before death and there are still issues with killing non-target species. Numerous non-target native mammals could access the bait and die, such as forester kangaroos, potoroos, bettongs and ringtail possums.  Pouch young will not be killed by Feratox but will be left to starve or freeze.

In a letter to the TCT, the Minister for Primary Industries and Water, David Llewellyn wrote, ‘the Tasmanian Government remains committed to the process set out for the Alternatives to 1080 Program. That is, to work with stakeholders and scientists to identify commercially viable humane alternatives that will lead to the phase out of 1080 for browsing damage control’ (9 November 2009). What the minister failed to mention is that Feratox is still on his agenda and he is currently not committed to providing funding to find alternatives to poisoning native wildlife. In the same letter Mr Llewellyn stated that he will await the Alternatives to 1080 Program final report, due in June 2010, before making any decision on what to do next – guaranteeing that any opportunity for funding from the 2010–2011 state budget for the financial year will be missed. By failing to commit any further funding Mr Llewellyn is supporting the ongoing use of 1080 and the broad scale poisoning of our native Tasmanian wildlife.

TAKE ACTION and help end the use of 1080 poison. Write to the leaders of the three major political parties urging them to commit to a policy for the 2010 state election to end the use of 1080 poison on our native wildlife and provide funding for non-lethal controls.

Ask the leaders to:

·         take action to immediately end the use of 1080 as a control for native species in Tasmania and ensure it is not replaced by any other poison

·         commit the State Government to non-lethal alternatives where possible and to use lethal controls such as coordinated culling, shooting and trapping only as a last resort

·         commit to providing funding to replace/continue the Alternative to 1080 Program focusing on providing ongoing research and delivery of non-lethal options (particularly for plantation and extensive grazing operations) and a roll-out of a low-cost fencing program for commercial farmers and private landowners.