Wednesday 8 June 2011

Plague of possums

I'm in the land of the (frequently) tacky souvenir: pottery kiwis, pohutukawa-decorated dishes, greenstone pendants and possum fur nipple-warmers. Yes, it's Paihia in the Bay of Islands where, the last time I was here, I photographed, with satisfaction if not actual glee, a dead possum on the bridge across to Waitangi, where I'm staying tonight.

And on the front page of the Wellington paper that I bought today for my Tasmania story about wildlife-spotting was a report about an inquiry into the use of aerial drops of 1080 poison here to kill possums. Use more, was the surprising conclusion.
Unfortunately it's a trade-off because it also kills many of the native creatures that we're wanting to protect, so there are a lot of angry people today, saying the cost is too high.

1080 is a naturally-occurring poison in Australia, so it's used to great effect there to wipe out foxes and feral cats, the natives having developed a tolerance for it. But our possums are Australian, yet they're killed by 1080. I need someone to sort this for me.

I bet the brilliantly entertaining and knowledgeable Gary Muir who presents the WOW cruise in Walpole, WA would know.


Gazza (WOW) said...

G'Day Pam!! Thought I better answer it!!
Brushies first joined the Kiwis from the Eastern States in the 1830's then in subsequent dispatches for a fur industry, (mainly from Tassie). Expolding to pest proportions (at one stage around70 million). 1080 has been effective to getting these numbers to around half that. These brushtails do not have the high tolerance to sodium monofloroactetate (1080) as do the SW WA brushtail possums because of the lack of the poisonous 1080 plants (genus Gastrolobium) in the east. Australia is a BIG place... and we have a poison over here that can tell the difference between an Eastern Stater and a native West Australian!! The colourless, tasteless, odourless acetate works by stopping the mitochondria producing the battery of your cells: ATP through upsetting the Krebs cycle. SW WA Brustails are up to 100 times more tolerant as they evolved in a sort of "arms race" with the poisonous pea plants in the west.
Gazza (from WOW)
See you next time you are in the Pole!

TravelSkite said...

Well, what else can I say but 'WOW'? Thanks, Gary, I knew you would know. I'm glad you took the time to clear that up!


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