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New Zealand Landscape to Be Blanketed with Poison August 1, 2014
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Top: Samples of the poison 1080 to be spread across 4,000 square miles of New Zealand. Bottom: native kiwi.
The New Zealand government has approved a massive airdrop of poison pellets to kill rats and short-tailed weasels that threaten the country’s native wildlife population.

The controversial biodegradable poison 1080 will be spread across nearly 4,000 square miles of forests to kill the pests, which officials say are in “biblical proportions.”

Opponents argue there is little proof the poisoning is necessary, and that the use of 1080 has been found to kill endangered kea birds.

But Conservation Minister Nick Smith said the lives of millions of kiwi, kaka and kea birds are at stake.

“Our kiwi will not exist in the wild for our grandchildren if we do not act now,” Smith said.

He told Radio New Zealand that the eradication of 30 million rats and about 25,000 weasels can’t be accomplished with trapping alone.

Those predators, or stoats, were introduced by European settlers in the 19th century.

They are said to pose the greater threat to New Zealand’s bird populations.

Photos: New Zealand government