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Published: 2007-11-09 00:00:00

An incident in which three horses are suspected to have died due to eating 1080 poison baits near Turangi shows the importance of people following correct procedures to keep domestic animals safe during aerial drops, says Environment Waikato.

The deaths occurred yesterday after a contractor carried out an aerial drop of 1080 baits to control possums on Tuesday.

The contractor Epro Ltd had arranged that 23 horses were to be kept in a paddock outside of the aerial drop zone. However, they were found in an adjacent pine tree block that was being treated. The horse owners were instructed to remove the horses when the helicopter pilot noticed them in the pines - but they delayed shifting them until Thursday.

Three horses were then found dead yesterday of suspected 1080 poisoning. Since then, the other 20 horses have been shifted from the paddock.

"This is an unfortunate example of human error leading to the deaths of animals belonging to the person who committed the error," said Environment Waikato’s biosecurity group manager John Simmons.

"Environment Waikato has very strict rules around ensuring that all procedures relating to 1080 are followed correctly given the risks involved.

"So the council and Epro Ltd will be carrying out a careful review of exactly how and why this mishap occurred, and apply any lessons learned.

"I’m not aware of any other incidents like this occurring during the drops we’ve carried out over the years and this may be just an unfortunate, one-off mistake. But I certainly don’t want to see any incident like this repeated."