New Zealand Journal of Ecology (1999) 23(2): 225- 231

Survival of brown kiwi (Apteryx mantelli) exposed to brodifacoum poison in Northland, New Zealand

Research Article
H. A. Robertson 1
R. M. Colbourne 1
P. J. Graham 2
P. J. Miller 2
R. J. Pierce 2
  1. Science and Research Unit, Department of Conservation, P.O. Box 10420, Wellington, New Zealand
  2. Department of Conservation, Northland Conservancy, P.O. Box 842, Whangarei, New Zealand

Brown kiwi (Apteryx mantelli) in central Northland have been monitored for up to 32 months of sustained exposure to brodifacoum poison. The cereal baits were placed in bait stations to target brushtail possums (Trichosurus vulpecula). Annual survival of 55 radio-tagged adult kiwi in two poisoned forest patches has been high (95.9%), and similar to that in two nearby unpoisoned forest patches and in the patches before poison was used (95.3%). The two adult birds tested of the four that died in the poisoned areas had no traces of brodifacoum at the detection limit of 0.05 mg kg(-1). With an improved detection limit of 0.02 mg kg(-1), no traces of brodifacoum were found in nine eggs collected over 18 months after adults were first exposed to the poison. Of four chicks tested (detection limit: 0.005 to 0.02 mg kg(-1)), that had apparently died of natural causes or were killed by predators, three contained traces of brodifacoum (0.01—0.18 mg kg(-1)). The median survival of 39 radio-tagged chicks in the poisoned areas (36 days) was significantly better than that of 18 chicks in untreated areas nearby (15 days). Kiwi chicks may be more vulnerable than adult kiwi to accidental poisoning because of physiological or behavioural differences; however, the effects of sustained exposure to low levels of brodifacoum poison may not be visible in the adult population for several years. At this stage of the ongoing study, the benefits to kiwi of this method of pest control outweigh the costs, because chick survival is greatly improved.