A new poison which will kill stoats and feral cats but not birds has been developed by the Department of Conservation and a commercial partner, Connovation Ltd.
It is thought to be the first new toxin for the control of mammalian pests, to be registered in the world for at least 20 years, according to Department of Conservation scientist Elaine Murphy, who has been working on its development.
Dr Murphy said the new poison, which was known as Papp (para-aminopropriophenone), had been approved by the Environmental Risk Management Authority.
Stoats posed a huge threat to threatened native bird species like kiwi, and DOC was continually looking at improving the range of weapons it had to control them, she said.
Stoats also carry TB which is a threat to cattle and deer.
They pose a greater danger to stock than possums because they range over greater areas and travel longer distances.
“The department has played a leading role, co-ordinating research on this new toxin in New Zealand and has invested significantly in its product development, working alongside its commercial partner Connovation Ltd, to reach registration.
“Work on the new poison has been going on since 2000 and a total of around US$1 million has been invested by DOC and Connovation.
Dr Murphy said one significant reason DOC had gone for Papp was because of its humaneness.
“It works very quickly, as stoats become unconscious within about 15 minutes, and die shortly afterwards There is also an antidote available which significantly reduces the risks to non-target species.”
Papp worked as a red blood cell toxin, by preventing the haemoglobin from carrying oxygen. Its mode of action was similar to carbon monoxide poisoning.
It is not however, an alternative to 1080 because it doesn’t work on possums or rats.
Dr Murphy said that DOC had stoat traps over 250,000 hectares and they would continue to be the preferred method of stoat control in many situations. But Papp would offer an alternative in remote areas, or when a quick result was needed for stoat control.
Friends with a high country station have an extensive trapping operation and catch hundreds of stoats a year. Having a new poison which can be used where traps can’t easily be set will provide another weapon in the war against these pests.