Russell Forest, damaged by pests
Image: DOC


Answers to the most common questions about 1080.

Download these FAQs and further information in this brochure: Protecting native species: 1080 as a tool for predator control (PDF, 2,792K)

What is 1080?

1080 is a biodegradable pesticide. Its active ingredient is found in poisonous plants in Brazil, Africa and Australia. 

Bait pellets contain 0.15% of 1080 – sodium fluoroacetate – and the rest is cereal, glucose, cinnamon and glue. They are dyed green and have a cinnamon lure to attract rats and possums but deter birds.

Why do we use 1080?

1080 is highly effective for the control of rats, possums and stoats which are the biggest threat to our native birds. It is also biodegradable making it suitable for aerial application over rugged and inaccessible terrain.

It is essential in controlling the spread of bovine tuberculosis, a disease carried by possums that can infect cattle and deer herds and threaten New Zealand’s export markets.

Protecting New Zealand’s wilderness and our wildlife is crucial to sustain our tourism industry, now our biggest earner. Tourists come to see our unspoilt nature and unique species found nowhere else in the world.

How are 1080 bait pellets applied?

Cereal bait containing 1080 can be applied either aerially by helicopter using a calibrated sowing bucket and GPS navigation or by ground application methods. Ground methods include bait stations or bait bags where 1080 bait pellets are placed in a paper bag or container accessible to pests, usually attached to a tree or post. They can also be laid by hand directly on the ground. All methods require a suitably qualified person to do this work.

Is there a risk to water supplies?

1080 is highly soluble in water and quickly dilutes to very low and harmless concentrations. It then biodegrades into non-toxic products.

After aerial 1080 operations, water samples from drinking water supplies and natural waterways are tested by Landcare Research for the presence of 1080.

From 1990 to September 2018, 3701 water samples have been tested. Of those, over 1300 samples were collected from human and stock water supplies, and only five contained traces of 1080, all of which were less than two parts per billion, well below the Ministry of Health’s guidelines for drinking water.

Does it build up in the environment?

1080 does not bioaccumulate – it naturally breaks down in the environment and does not leave permanent residues in soil, water, plants or animals. Most, if not all, of the 1080 in pellets washes out after 100 mm of rain.

Learn more about how 1080 breaks down in the environment.

Does it kill native birds?

1080 is far less toxic to birds than mammals but some of our native birds including weka, robins, tomtits and kea are susceptible. Measures such as reducing the toxicity of bait, sowing less bait, and making bait less attractive to birds are all helping to significantly reduce the risk to native birds. The small number of individual birds lost is far outweighed by the population gains.

Is 1080 humane?

No poison is completely humane and 1080 has been ranked as being ‘moderately’ humane by the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC).

Why not use other methods like trapping?

Trapping, shooting and other ground-based poisons can be effective in easily accessible areas but are not feasible or as effective as 1080 in large, rugged and remote areas.

After heavy forest seeding, aerial 1080 is the only rapid response method that knocks down rodents and stoats before they can reach plague levels.

What research is there into alternatives?

There’s a significant amount of research into alternative and improved methods of pest control and this has increased in recent years as part of the Predator Free 2050 research strategy.

But right now, 1080 remains the best tool available. We don’t have the option to stop using 1080 while we look for an alternative – if we did that many native species would face extinction.

Does 1080 kill other animals?

Dogs are very susceptible to 1080 and should be kept away from pest control areas. DOC notifies communities and puts up warning signs on land where 1080 has been used. Signs aren’t removed until monitoring shows all 1080 baits and pest carcasses are safe. Deer and pigs are also susceptible.

DOC works with the New Zealand Deerstalkers Association and hunters and will use deer repellent in some 1080 operations to protect high-value herds.

How accurate are the drops?

1080 baits are sowed by helicopter using precisely calibrated buckets and following pre-determined flight lines. The amount of bait used is much less than in the past (1–2 kg per ha compared to 30 kg per hectare in 1978). This equates to 3–6 baits over the area of a tennis court.

Is it used in other countries?

1080 is suited for use in New Zealand because we have no native land mammals (except bats).

Introduced pests like possums, rats and stoats are vulnerable to 1080 but most native species are not. It’s used in some other countries such as Australia to control foxes, cats and wild dogs. 

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