Controlling possums is vital to protect our native forests and birds. Possums can also carry TB, or bovine tuberculosis, which can infect livestock, affecting our dairy and meat industry. In some places aerial 1080 operations are the only effective way to control possums. On these pages you’ll find information and assurance on the safety and benefits of using 1080 for possum control.
On this page: What is 1080?, Why we use 1080, Are there any risks?, Other pest control methods, More information
What is 1080?
1080 (sodium monofluoroacetate) is a naturally occurring toxin found in plants in Australia, South America and South Africa – it’s thought to have developed to put animals off browsing.
As a pesticide, 1080 is manufactured synthetically in the United States of America. It breaks down harmlessly in water and soil. It’s poisonous to possums, which die humanely of heart or respiratory failure.
Why we use 1080
Possums compete for food with, and/or eat our native birds - adults, chicks and eggs. They are also the main carriers of bovine TB (bovine tuberculosis), which is a major problem in our cattle and deer herds.
Bovine TB has the ability to seriously affect our international trade in cattle and deer. Possums need to be reduced to very low numbers to eradicate the source of TB infection.
Under the Regional Pest Management Strategy, Waikato Regional Council manages large scale possum control programmes to maintain gains made under prervious Animal Health Board control.
Waikato Regional Council and the Department of Conservation manage major possum control operations in the region, but landowners and occupiers are encouraged to take responsibility for controlling possums on their own land.
When we use aerial 1080
Our contractors mostly target possums by trapping and laying ground baits. However, in rugged, inaccessible areas where ground baiting is too difficult, we carry out a small number of carefully controlled aerial drops of 1080. This means about one teaspoon of 1080 per hectare is applied.
Our contractors use highly accurate GPS (global positioning systems) to make sure 1080 is kept clear of water supplies, rivers, paddocks and other sensitive areas.
The approval of the Medical Officer of Health is required for all aerial 1080 operations. We consult with landowners in the area well before a drop is done. Target areas are also well signposted. Farmers are advised to make sure livestock are kept away from the target area.
Waikato Regional Council usually undertakes aerial 1080 possum control operations during winter months to achieve the best possum kills. You can also check for upcoming 1080 operations through the public notices section of your local paper. View or print this example of a public notice
Public notice advising of 1080 operation
Are there any risks?
Many people are concerned about the use of 1080, especially about the health risks, and the effects on native birds.
1080 and human health
- 1080 will kill people if they consume enough of it, either by eating 1080 baits directly or by consuming contaminated food or water that contains 1080. However, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Dr Jan Wright noted in her 2011 evaluation of the use of 1080 that: "there are no known records of any deaths from people consuming baits from the field use of 1080."1
- In the 1960s a possum hunter died after eating 1080-laced jam bait that was present in his home. This bait formulation is now banned.2
- Research shows 1080 does not cause cancer or birth defects, but those working with 1080 should follow strict safety precautions, as with all poisons.
1080 in water and soil
- 1080 doesn’t remain in soil or water, but breaks down harmlessly into natural substances.
- Extensive soil and water testing following 1080 drops around New Zealand has not resulted in any contamination of water supplies.
1080 may affect dogs
- Dogs are particularly susceptible to 1080 poisoning. They can also be poisoned if they eat the carcasses of animals poisoned by 1080, such as possums or rabbits.
- Dog owners are warned to keep dogs away from areas where 1080 will be dropped, or at least muzzle dogs.
1080 effects on bird life
- 1080 bait is dyed green and cinnamon is added. This attracts possums, but the colour and smell deters birds from eating it.
- Where 1080 has been used, the drop in predator numbers means bird life can flourish.
- Research shows significant increases in native birds numbers where 1080 has been used.
- Monitoring has shown 1080 can kill individual birds, but this is very rare.
- No kiwi, kakariki or falcons have been found dead after 1080 drops.
Check out how using 1080 has helped our native birds to thrive by greatly reducing possum and stoat numbers.
Other pest control methods
Other pest control methods can be used, but they have drawbacks, and none are as cost effective or efficient for reducing possum numbers in remote or rugged areas.
- Recreational and commercial hunting generally cannot reduce possum numbers enough, especially in remote areas.
- When possum densities drop, commercial hunters move on to other high-density areas, so possum numbers are never reduced low enough for forests and bird life to recover and TB to be eradicated.
- Cyanide has killed kiwi and can kill people. 1080 hasn’t killed kiwi and no deaths have been recorded for humans.
- Brodifacoum (Pestoff) is not water-soluble and takes three months to break down.
- Traps have maimed and killed large numbers of weka and kiwi – even Timms traps.
Questions and answers
Check out the Questions and answers on 1080 publication produced by the National Pest Control Agencies. It answers commonly asked questions about:
- possums, TB and the implications for the New Zealand economy
- facts about 1080 – research covering its toxicity and effect on water and soils
- benefits of 1080 – case studies showing the benefits or possum control for native wildlife and successful TB control.
Other useful websites
Find out more about 1080 on these websites:
Also on this website
- Check out our factsheets on possums, which include possum control methods such as poisoning, trapping and shooting.
- For additional advice and information on effective methods of control and to obtain pest control products, contact your nearest Biosecurity Animal Pest Contractor or farm supply store.
- Learn about plant and other animal pests in the Waikato region in our factsheets.
- Our Regional Pest Management Plan details the plants and animals that are declared pests in the Waikato region and outlines how each pest will be managed.
1. Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment. June 2011. Evaluating the use of 1080: Predators, poisons and silent forests. Wellington: 49. See http://www.pce.parliament.nz/assets/Uploads/PCE-1080.pdf
2. Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment. June 2011. Evaluating the use of 1080: Predators, poisons and silent forests. Wellington: 49. See http://www.pce.parliament.nz/assets/Uploads/PCE-1080.pdf