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King Country possums take a hammering

The number of Tb infected cattle herds in the Waitomo area has dropped dramatically in the past 10 years, thanks to intensive testing and major possum control operations.

The number of infected herds has dropped from a high of 17 in 1988/89 to only two in the past financial year. Current possum control methods use many more bait stations and trapping than 1080 or pellet baits, while aerial control is repeated on bush or forest areas about once every four years to ensure possum populations are kept as low as possible.

Waikato Animal Health Committee chairman Giff McFadden of Reporoa said he endorsed the Tb control programme.

“The gains being made in the Waikato are really positive, but we cannot afford to let off the pressure until we have Tb free status.

“For the Waitomo district, the successful possum control that Environment Waikato and its contractors EcoFx Limited and Ritchie Trappers are responsible for is working but continual pressure is necessary to beat the Tb problem.

“Aerial treatment with 1080 of Rangitoto Range and other bush areas in the King Country is vital. Experience shows that if low possum populations can be hit again, the residual populations remaining cannot sustain the Tb infection,” he said.

“What we also know is that there are significant spin-off benefits to bush condition and survival prospects of our endangered native bird populations like kokako, kiwi and kaka.”

Environment Waikato Biosecurity Group Manager John Simmons said it was frustrating that the anti-1080 lobby used misinformation, such as water contamination, disease, bird deaths and ‘silent spring’ analogies to criticise the excellent achievements of possum control.

“My plea to anyone is to check out for yourself, in areas which have been treated with 1080 a year or so later to experience the bird life and re-growth of previously heavily browsed bush.

“Other spin-off benefits, like reduced giardia and cryptosporidia infections in water supplies after removal of possums cannot be seen but are real.”

This media item was current at its release date. The facts or figures it contains may have changed since its original publication.

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