DOC to explore alternative pest controls after six kea deaths linked to 1080

Six kea which were found dead after a recent 1080 drop near Wanaka have been confirmed to have likely died due to the toxin,

A post-mortem was conducted on the birds by Massey University, which was then followed by toxicology testing by Maanaki Whenua Landcare Research after the birds were found last month.

Department of Conservation says the four adult and two juvenile kea had been monitored by the Kea Conservation Trust in the Matukituki Valley in Aspiring National Park.

DOC threats director Amber Bill says the deaths are ‘disappointing’ but the aerial pest control has been shown to improve the bird species’ population.

“It’s upsetting and disappointing to lose six kea but we are confident with effective control of rats and stoats, we will significantly boost nesting success and the number of young birds entering the population.”

Six kea found dead near Wanaka following 1080 drop

The birds had been part of 12 kea monitored by the Trust with the remaining six confirmed alive since the 1080 drop on February 11.

Ms Bill says the kea may have been likely to eat the bait due to learning to scavenge for human food around tramping huts.

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She says the findings have prompted DOC to further investigate finding alternative pest control.

“In light of this incident we will be investing more to explore potential additional measures that DOC can take to reduce the risk to kea in future 1080 predator control operations," she said.

"We need to continue to learn and assess all options to protect this national taonga from predators and other threats."

Department of Conservation is also exploring potential measures to discourage the public from feeding the birds to prevent kea from learning scavenging behaviour.