GUEST BLOG: Dr Alison Campbell – So what does the actual Science say about 1080?


As Hayden Donnell says this morning in The Spinoff, anti-1080 activism has become both noisy, and ugly. And, as is probably apparent to anyone with an internet connection & a social media account, that activism has taken to hijacking unrelated issues to attempt to spread its message. On The Daily Blog, Christine Rose has likened this movement & its approach to the activities of those who believe in a range of conspiracy theories, all of which have a strong thread of science denialism running through them. And a lot of similarities in the statements that are made by their supporters:

If you look at the evidence, you’ll see that we’re right. Yet, a very large number of good quality scientific studies show that, no, you’re wrong. (A lot of it is summarised here and here.) In fact, in beginning her investigation into the use of 1080, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment “expected that it would not be as effective and safe as it is” – reading through the evidence convinced her otherwise.

It’s not effective, coupled with there are alternatives. Yes, there are alternatives that can be used, where 1080 can’t, but they too have shortcomings. And yes, intensive trapping works to control pest species. Conservation groups such as Bay Bush Action have demonstrated this. But the problem is that those pests will always re-colonise from areas that haven’t been trapped (with the exceptions, of course, being offshore and mainland refugia such as Zealandia and Maungatautari). As Dr Jan Wright commented when releasing her 2011 report on the use of 1080,

Possums, rats and stoats are chewing up our forests to the point that we are only a generation away from seeing regional extinctions of kiwis and other native species where no pest control is carried out. There are other pest control methods that are more suitable than 1080 in certain circumstances but on much of our conservation land there is currently nothing else that will effectively kill possums, rats and stoats.

Why wouldn’t large-scale trapping, as advocated by those opposed to the use of 1080, do the trick? Bay Bush Action have done the calculations:

For a large scale trapping programme you would need to cut tracks in grids 150 metres apart all through the bush. You would need to have hundreds of thousands of traps carried in, installed, maintained and set regularly. You need a forest that’s close by and terrain that’s easy so there are no gaps in pest control. You need to carry about 3kg of lure per kilometre of trapline. This means we can only realistically do multi-species trapping in a tiny area of a huge forest. And, even after all that, you would still not get rat numbers low enough to reintroduce species like kōkako without using toxin. This is the case with all trapping programs throughout Aotearoa.

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To date, there is no group in our country that protects more than a 1000 hectares using best practice, multi-species pest control using only traps. To put that in perspective DOC manages 116,000 hectares of forest in Northland and Forest & Bird say nationally we need to bring 5,000,000 hectares under multi-species pest control.

And 1080 is definitely effective in controlling mammalian pests, particularly possums, which not only do enormous damage to native forest ecosystems but also harbour bovine TB. In addition, as this summary of a range of experimental and field research studies shows, there is no good evidence to support claims that it “kills everything”, while there is evidence to show how native species bounce back once predator numbers are controlled (see this resource from the Science Media Centre).

It poisons water supplies – except that the scientific evidence tells us otherwise. The maximum allowable level of fluoroacetate in water supplies is 2ppb (parts per billion). This limit has never been exceeded – and if it were, an average-sized adult male would need to drink 60,000 litres of water in one sitting before being affected.

Other countries don’t use it – apart from those that do: Australia, the US, Israel, Japan, and the Galapagos Islands use this compound, albeit on a smaller scale given the need to protect their native mammals. In NZ the only native land mammals are our two species of bats, while in Western Australia 1080 is produced naturally by many native plants and (as a result of natural selection) the region’s native mammals are immune to it.

No-one would say that 1080 isn’t nasty stuff; we know that it is. Poisons are. We know it’s dangerous to non-pest animals, especially mammals, and those involved in 1080 drops work to minimise that danger (which also needs to be put in perspective). For example, baits have been changed (from carrot, to hard cereal baits); accuracy of drops has increased significantly with the advent of GPS; and application rates have dropped substantially of the 30 or so years of our use of 1080. The scientists & conservation workers that I know look forward to the time when reliable, equally-effective alternatives become available – but that time is still, realistically, years away and frankly, our native ecosystems can’t wait that long. We definitely need to keep talking about this issue, and we need to improve the way we do that. The grandstanding and the untruths don’t help anything, least of all the living taonga we all want to protect.


Dr Alison Campbell is a Senior University of Waikato biological sciences lecturer. She is well known in the Waikato and Bay of Plenty for promoting science to community groups and school students. She has been nicknamed the skull lady by secondary school students after her presentations on human evolution. Dr Campbell established Cafe Scientifique in Hamilton as part of an effort to encourage the community to discuss scientific issues. She has also launched BioBlog website to support secondary school biology students and teachers preparing for exams.


  1. Oh no! Not more scientific evidence! The “Anti’s” will poo pooh this as hocus pocus voodoo science! Besides, most of them are illiterate OCD’ers with more time on their hands than most of us that can read & our cognitive cerebral functions are in tact & working reasonably well.

    • It’s great to hear that something like this is being developed. However, that doesn’t change the fact that the conservation estate covers about 500,000 ha and to attain the best possible coverage traplines would need to be cut (& maintained) every 150m on a grid over that estate, with traps targeting the lot. This system would have to be as effective and economical as 1080 in order to challenge it.

      • Hi Alison
        to compare apples with apples aerial delivery is a once in 3-5 years event what you quote is permanent control with traps. Those who participate in contract ground control operations are not permitted to cut tracks or cut anything when operating in DOC estate. The use of enviroMate over a 14-28 day period also only requires 2-3 visits to each site, we do not cut tracks. enviroMate 100 technology deliver’s lures and toxins, possibly 1080 pellets or paste, in a controlled way. They are not traps. Time in motion studies suggest possum targets of 10% WTI and the delivery of rat bait would have a starting per ha rate of $20-$25.00.
        1 single person can work continuous difficult terrain 4500ha once per year. So 25 people can work 125,000ha so that means if your suggested 500,000 ha was tendered through GETS and determined a contractor could walk 50% of that N.Z would only need fund 50 people. I wonder how many are actually supporting aerial 1080 operations of this scale.
        We accept the technology will take time to be accepted but to say it doesn’t exist and quoting how it is used when you don’t have the facts is none scientific….it is actually misleading.

    • lol, unless this BUSINESS is promoting robot traps that roam the bush then it’s only even going to a be a compliment to 1080 use not a replacement for it.

    • Urgh, slandering academic staff with distinguished careers because you saw something on the internets.

      You need a month without netflix.

  2. The spinoff article from the other day was interesting in its analysis of tactics used by anti activists using social media to grow their movement with tactics non reliant on facts.
    But the real turning point wasn’t that. It was the PCE report in 1080 use.
    Up until that point there was at least the appearance of balance in DoC or before that, Forest Service studies on 1080 with plenty on emphasis on negative as well as the positive outcomes.
    The PCE report has been used as a full stop on all that, as the “proof” 1080 is the best tool we have.
    Science doesn’t work like that, the PCE report is just one, very slanted attempt to summarize. It lacks any real investigation of negative outcomes.
    What did the PCE think of 12% kea mortality per drop? It didn’t rate a mention.
    With the PCE whitewash the department of conservation entered a new phase of total one sided PR most of which now goes unquestioned and repeated as nauseum as per this article.

    What of this lie that less 1080 is being used? ZIP in the South Island are using baits with double the 1080 concentration 4kg toxin/ha instead of 2kg.

    I’d like to know what Dr Alison Campbell thinks of more than 12 percent mortality of adult and subadult k select threatened birds (kea) to every monitored drop. Then I will link up what DoCs own kea experts think when their work isnt being spun by the PR department.

    How anyone who really reads the studies (have you?) can think that such a non selective method over so many diverse micro habitats, can give consistent results, is a worry.
    Our native birds deserve better and yes it will take a lot more money.
    Don’t fall for the cheap and nasty sop to your conscience. It’s not working so the cure is more if the same, makes perfect sense..

    • Still waiting on the science that says killing 12 percent of kea per drop is ok.
      Yet another generic 1080 best tool for the job article on TDB today I see invoking science but only capable of generalities.

      • It’s not really ‘per drop’, though; at some sites no deaths have been recorded, while yes, 12% at others. And no-one’s saying that those kea deaths were OK. However, for a bit of perspective on the other impacts of these drops: “Aerial 1080 improved the odds of daily nest survival by a factor of 9.1 at the treatment site. Nest survival rates in the Control and Impact sites, before the application of 1080, were 21% and 46.4%, respectively. After the application of 1080 to the Impact site, nest survival increased to 84.8% in this site, whereas it declined to 12.2% in the untreated Control site.” (

        • No it’s not up 12, it’s a greater than 12 percent AVERAGE mortality per monitored drop to aerial 1080

          150 monitored kea through various 1080 drops, 20 died to poison at th3 time= 13.3% mortality on average. Ongoing secondary poisoning who knows, carcasses of poisoned animals last months in cold conditions.
          Note Mr Kemp in the quote above, is the author of the study you quote, and in possession of the study data,

          Under OIA from above article :“It said DOC did not know if the benefit to kea nesting and fledgling survival through the use of 1080 to kill predators was high enough to offset the impact of potential bird deaths. ”

          How interesting then that 4 years later again their official spin with the same data in the study you quoted, is so different..
          What is most interesting in the study you quoted though, is the complete omission of the 7 of 38 adult kea monitored killed by the 1080 drop in September 2011

          If the study followed monitored kea to their nests to observe nesting success, what of these birds, their nests, or even mention in the discussion of risk vs benefit? It’s not even mentioned.
          Silence, 6 years to spin the results and this is what we got.
          I’m hoping it wasn’t you who peer reviewed that clunker..

      • There is a very obvious and concerted media campaign being carried out by DOC and their allies. It is classic PR and marketing.
        Repeat the message, little but often, vary the medium, but keep the message consistent. Who was it again who said:

        “The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly and with unflagging attention. It must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over. Here, as so often in this world, persistence is the first and most important requirement for success.”

        This campaign has been rolled out since the Hikoi and protest rally in Wellington. It has been obviously well planned for many months. Repeat it little but often, feed the minds of those who only have time for sound bites and headlines. It is brainwashing.

        Crosby Textor eat your heart out.

        Only problem is the pattern is easily recognisable when it is done on such a regular basis. This too will end.

  3. Well said Dr Alison. Much of the opposition to 1080 is from deer stalkers who are paranoid that some of their introduced recreational pests may be killed. They fail to realise that without 1080, the Bush will die and deer will lose their habitat and that population will diminish too.

    • Without 1080 the bush will die?
      Wow, you should see a doctor for that hyperbole.
      Sounds like a very scientific probable statement.

  4. I moved into a nature reserve called Waipori Falls two years ago.
    First was the 1080 drop from helicopters, then the tree killing spray along my street because someone was too lazy to prune. Then came the fucken boom hanging over a spray truck spraying the whole of Waipori road edges right through the nature reserve with Round up. I was caught walking along this road twice and have had to walk past the spray. Also to top it all off a helicopter was spraying weed killer from a boom over the recently deforested forestry area very near the nature reserve and the houses here.
    The skull and cross bones signs are always up along the road.
    I am now doing chemo for breast cancer and no wonder, we are poisoning paradise. Also everytime I see a native bird drinking from the ditch along the road sprayed with roundup it gives me the shits.
    This is the only place I have ever seen so much disgusting chemical crap in one place in my life.

  5. Excellent summary Dr Alison Campbell, we need that message out there now. Just heard today that the Raukumara Ranges are over populated with deer, that they are suffering from malnutrition and no one is wanting to hunt skinny deer with malformed antlers.
    We need a public discussion on what value our Conservation Estate is for – preserving NZ’s unique flora and fauna or to be used as a hunting estate for exotic goats, deer and pigs?
    Until we have the genetic technology to control pests we have to use poisons such as 1080. That is if we wish to preserve our unique environment.

  6. I feel because DoC have neglected to do proper long term research or monitoring they are instead relying on a fulltime propaganda team to manufacture invented reasons to justify their very one dimensional approach to pest control. Along with their false reasonings come a package of the usual dogma to support the use of aerial poisonings, such as there is only ‘one tool in the box’..&.’there is no better way at present’ type rhetoric which is based on pure fiction. Numbers are also plucked out of the air for so called pest predations of birds eggs, chicks and animals. All very amateuristic and immature as proven by outstanding scientists such as Dr Jo Pollard, Dr Alexis Pietak, Dr’s Pat & Quinn Whiting-Okeefe, the Graf Brothers & Fiona McQueen (author of ‘The Quiet Forest: The Case Against 1080’ (2017))…/book-review-quiet-forest-case-ag… and many others who have evaluated the scientific papers DoC say they base their policies on.

    Lack of DoCs technical and scientific expertise is becoming apparent as each week passes, but unfortunately instead of biting the bullet as their science gets shredded they instead turn to their State clobbering machine, making sure to feed sensationalised stories to their pet newspaper editors about those opposed to ecocide, and they continue to egg-on their hilarious propaganda team which comes out with increasingly outlandish claims against those seeking to end our nations ecocide madness.

    DoC have no reliable science at all, yet their disciples make a big song and dance about anti-ecocide guardians showing their science and when they do its immediately ignored. I’ve spoken to a lot of trappers who do a great job with pest control and I would take their word over DoCs suspect science. They say Ecocide 1080 is the worst ever method of pest control. Their experiences and stories are what I would term ‘the real world’ as opposed to DoCs Fantasia. I hear that when the heinous aerial bombings of Ecocide 1080 occur rats do get knocked back for several months before multiplying to massive plague proportions. When the rat numbers suddenly do drop however their most voracious predator, the stoat, switches its diet to birds, this is AFTER the drops. Therefore as the forest ecosystems are destabilised, knocked out of balance by Ecocide 1080, the whole predatory nature of the poisoned forest changes.

    Huge numbers of native birds die from eating poisoned pellets or from secondary poisoning from eating worms and insects. Additionally stoats, which do not suffer dramatically from the poisoning, turn to gorging themselves on kiwi, kereru and whatever other birds are around. Without the aerial poisoning relatively few native birds would actually be eaten by stoats because they prefer rats, mice and rabbits. So DoC are the actual cause of native birds facing extinction!

    Another area in which DoC has done negligible research is on the effects of wasp predation on birds. Wasps were studied killing and eating nesting native birds and chicks in the Marlborough region as far back as the 1970s but DoC have no idea on how many birds are continuing to be killed in this way and I have never seen any info from them on this phenomenon even though some trappers say is a well known predation. Instead DoC just keep churning on with their false narratives to justify ecocide to supposedly control pests with a method which real life trappers know is diabolically detrimental to our environment and to the survival of our native birds.

    For all intents and purposes we have a corrupt, inefficient and ill-informed Govt department supposedly looking after the best interests of our natural environment. The organization can be likened to a ship, crewed by drunken sailors, with a jammed rudder, which has been going round and round in the same spot for the past 70yrs.

    • The scientific research on the toxicology and ecological effects of aerial 1080 use is extensive and readily available e.g. NZ Journal of Ecology free online. This shows that 1080 is safe to use and effective. Indeed species such as kokako owe their recovery to this biodegradable toxin. I don’t know of any ecology scientist who disagrees with the use of 1080. Pollard and co. are out of their subject area and not active scientists. Mike Mead’s work on insects was not properly replicated and poorly designed so it was not accepted for publication. Subsequent more through research by Sherley et al 1999 showed that insect numbers can be temporarily reduced within 20 cm of toxic baits but numbers return to normal levels within six days of the bait being removed. The amount of 1080 used per hectare is only 3g and this is distributed in discrete pellets, most are eaten by the target pest animals with the first few nights.

  7. ALISON;

    For your information.



    “It’s hard to miss the recent groundswell of support for the elimination of 1080,”

    Yes; what, 6 TDB articles in the space of 10 days? (Now there is a sign?)

    At nearly 70ys of age, I have come to realise that highly controversial subjects / issues are so for very good reason.

    Seems obvious but it is because, to many, something does not seem to add up / there are to many holes in The Narrative / dissenters start to get called names like nutters and conspiracy theorists etc etc.

    We live in a world now where the Official Narrative is not always trusted.
    Especially with the Internet at our fingertips.

    Hot Button Subjects, especially when politicized, need to be researched for oneself.
    Not just the mainstream news / literature and teachings but other research / info
    that may contradict the official line. ie, ‘the otherside of the story.’

    Many intelligent commentators on TDB have done just that.
    The beauty of many eyes of research put all in one place.

    I did not know much about 1080 until now. So I took the time (to save my time)
    to read through all the links contained in Martyns’ 3 articles below in order.

    I have gleaned out 5 links that just ‘hit me in the face’!!

    I urge / challenge you to do the same. Start with those 5 links.

    Real science, real expert quotes, real events.

    Now, with normal cognitive skills, I am not left in any doubt.


    To any investigative reporter, the link below should set off numerous alarms.

    1. The message of what Dr Baycroft had to say.

    2. The fact he was threatened with litigation.

    3. The video clip of him speaking has been blocked.

    4. Numerous comments say they can not share/send information from their Facebook or cell phone on the subject.
    (These comments in both Martyns’ and Christine Roses’ articles)

    5. Protests seem downplayed by our MSM. (Like TPPA march)

    6. The death of the American 23yr old woman (her lost heart sent for testing) and

    7.The poisoning of the Indian family BOTH smell highly of cover up and collusion.

    8. Nobody interviews the hunter, even though his dog died the same day as the kill.

    9. Even though many doctors diagnose 1080 poisoning in notes, there is no testing for 18 days which is far to late from instructions to test and

    10. Many, many other pertinent links covering what is really happening throughout NZ in the comment sections of all the Martyn’s links.
    Many more alarms with real evidence.

    “Remember the young woman whose Doctor suspected 1080 poisoning, urged the authorities to test, only to have the lab lose her heart?! That good Doctor was basically told to leave the story alone. Then there was the recent poisoned Putaruru family and the cover up that accompanied their illness.”

    Both these two incidents above are logged in the poison register below.


    “DOC’s culture wars revealed”

    “Over my time in DOC, what I saw was an increasingly flagrant disregard for the importance of science. It was almost a cult of persecution of the expert; expert sort of became the latest scare-word.”

    “If we see an agency that appears to have stopped publishing science then I think that should raise some concerns.”

    “How could it be that a Department of Conservation could employ some of the world leaders in conservation and yet ignore their advice? But it does.”

    Top scientist below another to be pushed out.

    “Mike Meads – DoC’s insect guy speaks out, before his death ..”


    Something is not right, DOC’s science has many holes and the 1080 Program
    as it stands is not safe.

    With these rising saturation levels, isn’t it just a matter of time before 1080
    IS detected in our export honey, meat, dairy, game or trout?

    What happens when the next American tramper, hiker, tourist dies with a real
    link the poison.? (Or anyone for that matter.)

    The result? Multiple industries wiped out overnight.

    To put all that at risk just seems so reckless. An unnecessary risk.

    The Program should cease until a truly independent investigation and
    proper scientific analysis of all alternative options and practice.

    NZ could well have a thriving multi- $million fur, game and petfood business
    employing 100’s if not thousands of people right down the chain to fabric and apparel.

    Remember a few years back when John Key appeared on HARD TALK – BBC.
    The host asked him about our top experts’ (at the time) research that our rivers
    and lakes were polluted and not safe.

    Key’s arrogant reply? “I could find a scientist that would say otherwise.”!!!

    As you mature, you too might find that ‘Establishment Science’ is not always
    ‘Empirical Established Science’.




    There are many examples.


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