More on Westport’s “Ratgate”

Dead Westland petrels, weka, octopus, starfish, a goat, crabs, crayfish and skate fish were amongst the rat carcasses washed up on a West Coast beach. Stuff, Wednesday 12 November

From Carol Sawyer


Some of the hundreds of rats washed up on North Beach Westport

How the rats probably got to North Beach

Former local, Ron Eddy, has sent me the following:

“The theory the rats may have come from the Springs Junction area is possible because the Maruia River empties into the Buller below Murchison and then it is a straight run down to Westport … my old home town! The fact they have ended up on the North Beach would be due to the rats being floating out of the mouth of the Buller and then being picked up by the strong northerly current that runs straight up the West Coast. With extended breakwaters out into the sea the rats would have then been sucked around the end of the Northern one and then been washed up on the beach.

If this is the case then that scenario is one of deep concern …. 1080 affected animals carried so far and still a viable agent for secondary poisoning? If cockroaches full of brodifacoum can kill Tuatara by secondary poisoning then 1080 laden rats could kill dogs and any other animal that ate them.”

The nature and scope of the recent 1080 drop

This aerial 1080 drop was carried out on 1 and 2 November, 2019. DoC used their new sowing method of overlapping flight paths to give a 50% greater amount of 1080 baits dropped, so that 1.5 kgs per ha became 2.25 kgs per ha. The area poisoned was, according to the map, 46,067.14ha, which equates to 103, 651 kgs x toxic 1080 baits.

Poisoning activity in the Buller area

The Department of Conservation position

The Department of Conservation (DOC) is presuming the rats died from an aerial 1080 drop in the Lewis Pass National Reserve recently washed down with the help of over half a metre of rainfall on the West Coast over the past week. The results of toxicology tests on the rats and a sample of the marine life washed up were due back by the end of this week. Stuff. Tuesday 12 November.

(Carol Sawyer is a Wanaka environmental activist, strongly opposed to  poisoning the land.)

It is interesting that one DoC official in the area concedes that 1080 might be the culprit. Another put the proposition that the rats might have been starving and jumped lemming-like into the Buller River. This prompted a local journalist to come up with the phrase – … did they jump or were they poisoned?

PS It’s also interesting that there have been no reports of 1080 poisoned dogs in Buller region, which you would certainly expect if these rats were killed by 1080.

The 1080 test results on rats and sea life washed up on Buller beach have not yet been published, but they should be close. I believe we should not jump to conclusions about what killed any of these animals.

I’ve heard reports of several people – anti-1080 people – that cut rats open, and they all report that there was no green colour and the stomachs were empty. Which is interesting.


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