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Published: 2013-06-04 00:00:00

Waikato Regional Council is helping to fund a Massey University student’s research on the possible effect of poisons on threatened native falcons.

The three-year study by Chifuyu Hawksby will look at what impact – if any – there might be from 1080 on the threatened and nationally vulnerable New Zealand falcon living in the Kaingaroa pine plantation. 

The council last week awarded $7000 from the environmental initiatives fund (EIF) for the project.

The council heard that many aspects of 1080 used for pest control have been well-studied and a recent report by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment concluded that it is an essential tool in protecting New Zealand’s biodiversity.

However, this specific research question has not been studied, so the information provided would make a useful contribution to the understanding of 1080.

Falcons are generally known to forage primarily on live animals, such as exotic small birds like the chaffinch and yellow hammer. The study will look at how much falcons are exposed to 1080 when feeding on live prey that may have ingested it.

The $121,000 research project is part of a larger Massey programme to understand falcon habitat requirements in pine plantations and to promote their sustainability by providing information to forestry management and local stakeholders. 

The New Zealand falcon is the only living native bird of prey that is active during the day and it’s thought there are just 8,000 left in New Zealand. 

Reduction of native forests is the largest contributor to the falcon’s declining population. 

Recent studies confirm that they now also breed in the exotic pine plantation forests, such as Waikato’s Kaingaroa forest. Pine plantations potentially play an important role as a surrogate habitat for this aspect of New Zealand biodiversity.