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Smarter Pest Control

Possum control costs New Zealand more than $50 million annually, but local scientists hope to lower this through the development of smarter baits. These baits are aimed at killing pests more effectively while causing minimal stress to the animal.

In a world first, HortResearch scientist Dr Christian Cook has successfully trialed bait additives to reduce symptoms of suffering in poisoned animals. The compounds have shown the ability to alleviate symptoms such as pain and nausea without reducing the toxic effects of the poison.

"We have been addressing certain animal welfare issues associated with pest control. Most people understand the need to remove introduced feral pests but also have concerns at the humaneness of any control measures."

The HortResearch team is also developing antidotes for poisons which are taken by dogs or humans by mistake.

"The most commonly used vertebrate pest toxin, 1080, has many advantages but lacks an antidote. Dogs are, unfortunately, very susceptible to 1080,with the quantity inside a dead possum often enough to kill even a large dog," says Cook.

"When an animal is poisoned with 1080, a complex cascade of events begins that affects both the central and systemic nervous systems. We have developed a cocktail of compounds that oppose critical paths in this process. We hope in the near future that this can produce an antidote successful in treating 1080 intoxication in at-risk animals."