Death By Conservation


Sophia Zoog, Writer

Endangered animals are a serious problem today, and there are many strategies that humans have used to help them, but, in New Zealand, a new idea has emerged. It all started in 2016, when the Prime Minister of New Zealand John Key, announced that in order to save two native species of birds, the kiwi and the kakapo, they would be taking a new plan of action. Instead of common conservation tactics such as planting more trees or restoring habitats, the invasive species that prey on the kiwi and kakapo are to be completely eliminated from the islands. New Zealand’s goal is to ultimately wipe out the invasive rats, stoats, and possums that are killing off the native birds by the year 2050.

The kakapo and the kiwi have lived in New Zealand for a long time without any natural predators. This has made their reflexes slower and they were less able to adapt to their environment than many of the other animals in the area. While the birds find it difficult to adapt, both species are also flightless. Meanwhile, new, non-native species have been introduced into New Zealand, putting the kiwi and the kakapo’s numbers in critical conditions. Since the birds are unable to defend themselves, people felt the need to take action and help them. Once John Key announced “Predator Free 2050”, new tactics to eliminate predators have come into use.

The first of these tactics is single-use traps. A single use trap is a type of caging device that can only be used once and commonly catches pests; in this case possums, stoats (an animal similar to a weasel), and rats. This idea is gaining a lot of support from people in New Zealand, and it was viewed as a great way to allow the birds to start their population growth again.

However, the second tactic that New Zealand is using, called 1080 poison, has caused a lot controversy. 1080 is a toxin that is released in hopes of killing pests over a large range, however, it is often opposed because it causes an intense pain to the animal. Using 1080 poison, many more predators could be killed in large areas. Not only is the poison considered against animal rights, it is also banned in many areas. In fact, it is currently only available in six different countries. The use of 1080 poison has angered many animal rights groups, but most believe it is the most efficient way to get rid of the invasive predators.  

1080 poison is not the only controversial tactic that New Zealand is using to wipe out predators.  Scientists are using gene drives to build up the bird populations, and this is affecting the animal population at large.   Gene drive is when technology is used technology to shape the genes of animals in order to speed up their population, a process that would ordinarily take many generations. Very few people support this idea because it is unnatural. Some scientists say that this manipulation could cause long lasting effects, and consequences that cannot be foreseen.

“Predator Free 2050” may be a new strategy to save critically endangered species, like the kiwi and kakapo, from the invasive species killing them off like rats, stoats, and possums, but it has its share of struggles and controversy. Due to the lack of natural predators that were originally hunting the native birds, invasive species have taken population by storm. In order to save these birds, New Zealand uses inhumane strategies to get rid of the predators. Conservation is important to keeping the world in balance, but will killing off invasive species really solve the endangerment of the kiwi and kakapo?  In my opinion, these dangerous tactics are hurting more species than they end up saving. There are many ways to help animals around the world, but killing off other species should not be a go-to idea.