We have been studying the social behaviour and ecology of pukeko (Porphyrio porphyrio) for over five years at a study site in the lower Taieri River, Otago New Zealand. After an application of rabbit poison in 1995 and the illegal release of rabbit haemorrhagic disease (RHD) in 1997, there was strong anecdotal evidence that rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) abundance on and around our study site had been substantially reduced.
To establish whether poisoning programs affect non-target density, the null hypothesis that density does not decline on poisoned sites needs to be tested. However, where no statistically significant reduction in density is found, there is some probability that a biologically significant reduction has been overlooked. The probability that such an error has occurred (a Type 2 error) depends on the effect poisoning has on non-target density, the precision with which the reduction is assessed, and the number of poisoning operations sampled.