AUCKLAND : A government scheme to scatter poison worries New Zealanders

It is unusual stance for animal-lovers but conservationists in New Zealand are helping to bring about a mass extermination - of non-native species.

Though local fauna everywhere suffer from foreign invaders, animals in New Zealand are particularly vulnerable, since they evolved in the complete absence of mammals, bar a few species of bats.

That made local birds and reptiles easy pickings for the rats that arrived on Maori canoes in the 13th century and, later, the stoats and possums that accompanied European settlers.

It is these hungry four-legged immigrants, along with habitat loss, that are largely responsible for pushing 800 native species to the brink of extinction.

In 2016, to save them, the  Department of Conservation [DOC] launched ''Predators Free 2050'', a plan to eradicate unwanted mammals.

To succeed the scheme will need a technological breakthrough : an infertility gene that rats inadvertently propagate, for example, or a lure so powerful that trap-shy stoats can't resist poking their nose in.

Until then, there is poison, DOC helicopters drop pellets laced with sodium fluoroacetate or ''1080''  into areas too tricky for trapping.

It is an effective form of control, if not eradication, and bird numbers quickly rise in poison-strewn forests. The state owns roughly a third of the country's land, and 1080 has been applied to almost a fifth of that area.

The honor and serving of the latest operational research on New Zealand and Conservation continues. The World Students Society thanks The Economist.


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