Fur harvesting and pest control goals don't match
Source: Animal Health Board
The Animal Health Board (AHB) welcomes a new study by Landcare Research, which shows that possum fur trapping and pest control goals do not always match.
Read the full research paper here
The role of the Animal Health Board is to control – and eventually eradicate - bovine tuberculosis as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible. Controlling possums is a critical part of this. We currently use a combination of trapping, hand-laid toxins and aerial control – an approach that is keeping us on target in terms of eradicating the disease from the wild. From a TB control perspective, even if fur trapping was subsidised, it would be far too risky for New Zealand to rely on fur trappers for critical disease management-driven pest control.
The AHB has recently engaged with the New Zealand Fur Council to identify opportunities for fur recovery as part of our possum control operations. However, our primary concern must always be to keep possum numbers low enough to break the TB cycle. Any fur recovery activities would need to be subordinate to this goal. A major advantage of our current control strategy is that we can be confident we are consistently achieving the extremely low possum densities needed for effective TB control. As soon as there is a conflicting objective such as the recovery of fur, the pest control outcome can be compromised. Stringent performance monitoring would need to be put in place, at a significant additional cost. Some of our ground control contractors do recover furs, but this is something they need to negotiate with their employer as it has the potential to reduce efficiency and performance – time spent plucking possums is time not spent checking traps or laying baits.
While the study highlights the theoretical socio-economic benefits of trapping over aerial control, the reality is that the AHB is already using trapping and ground control techniques on up to 90 per cent of our operations annually, and only use aerially-applied toxins where other methods are impractical. Fur Council representatives readily admit that much of land controlled by the AHB is already well below economic levels for the possum fur trade. On top of this, the AHB provides a steady source of work for hundreds of local pest controllers across the country. In the 2012/13 financial year, we expect to spend more than $40 million on TB possum control. Much of this money will end up in struggling rural economies. In many areas, we already struggle to find enough people with the skills to carry out trapping and ground control across often challenging terrain.
More on this story:
Bruce Warburton talks to Radio New Zealand's Morning Report (9 July 2012)
Bruce Warburton talks to Radio Live about the history of possums in NZ (8 July 2012)
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