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Quokkas take fox poison

STAFF REPORTER

Ninety-five per cent of baits intended for feral foxes are taken by native species including quokkas a Murdoch University researcher has found.

Postdoctoral research fellow Shannon Dundas from Murdoch’s School of Veterinary and Life Sciences used cameras and regular visits to monitor seven sites in southwestern Australia that were ground-baited at high densities on a monthly basis over nine months.

Dr Dundas found that 99 per cent of camera monitored baits were taken by species other than foxes, with 95 per cent taken by native fauna and five per cent taken by introduced pigs and black rats.

Only a single monitored bait was taken by a fox, the target species of the baiting program.

“Foxes are present in the baited areas but the issue is that non-target species are consuming baits shortly after distribution, reducing the opportunities for foxes to find and consume baits,” Dr Dundas said.

“Baits did not last very long in the environment, with 62 per cent of the 299 baits monitored taken on or before the first night after distribution, and 95 per cent of baits taken within seven days.”

Dr Dundas said the poison compound used in WA in fox baits (commonly known as 1080) is found naturally in native Western Australian plant species.

She said 1080 was the most appropriate poison in WA because introduced species were more sensitive to its effects than native species.

“Many native species in Western Australia have high tolerances to 1080 poison, so even though they may consume multiple 1080 baits, it is highly unlikely they can consume enough poison for a lethal dose,” she said.

Dr Dundas added that the costs and labour associated with baiting can be substantial.

She called for further research into how the baits could better target foxes and reduce interference by non-target species.

“Further studies of fox behaviour and movements in baited forest areas with the use of GPS collars would provide valuable information and could help to direct baits more specifically to foxes,” she said.

“Additionally, alternative approaches could be trialled, such as changing the bait presentation to make it less accessible to native species, or altering bait attractiveness or type to more specifically target foxes.”

3 Responses to “Quokkas take fox poison”

  1. Craig says:

    Or they could just stop using 1080 and let dingoes take control of the foxes, feral cats, pigs, rabbits and other introduced pests.

  2. Tom says:

    Yet another study proving this dreadful toxin Compound 1080 is nothing but an ecological disaster.

    Just to correct an inaccuracy though, compound 1080 (Sodium mono-fluroacetate) is not a natural substance. This is a (synthetic) salt form of a natural substance mono-fluroacetate. Saying this salt form (sodium mono-fluroacetate) is the same as the naturally occurring substance is like saying chlorine is the same as table salt.

  3. Leigh Perth says:

    Sodium-Mono-Fluoro-Acetate. MFA. 

    Compound 1080 & The truth behind the lies & propaganda..

    It has long been purported that the toxin used in baits to kill Dingoes in Australia and other animals such as Possums in New Zealand, is a ‘natural’ and safe substance ‘harvested’ from the Gastroloblium Genus of plant, or poison peas, found in South West Australia and a few other locations around the world.

    The truth in it’s ‘discovery’, synthesis, initial purpose and manufacture is actually far from the ‘natural’ ‘propaganda’ and frighteningly sinister. 

    The Organo-fluorine compound, Fluoro-acetate is indeed found in small quantities in the Gastroloblium genus of plants. Some species of that genus in SW Australia have evolved to be able to concentrate the substance from low fluorine soils in the region as an anti-herbivore metabolite (a bittering agent to deter native animals from grazing) Because of long-standing evolutionary association & metabolic digestive adaptation, ‘some’ native Australian herbivores such as Brush-tailed possums, bush rats and western grey kangaroos, native to that region in South West Australia, are capable of safely eating plants containing fluoro-acetate, but livestock, other introduced herbivores and indeed herbivorous native species from elsewhere in Australia are highly-susceptible to the poison. As are all native Australian carnivorous fauna.

    Fluoro-acetate, is toxic to all aerobic (oxygen breathing) organisms and highly toxic to mammals and insects. The oral dose of fluoro-acetate sufficient to be lethal in humans is 2–10 mg/kg.

    After the settlement of the Swan River Colony in Western Australia in 1829, large tracts of land in the South West were cleared for settlement & grazing. It was soon noticed that some stock was dying after consuming some of the native vegetation, as was also reported in a few other regions in Australia. The culprit was thought to be the Native Pea plants, various species of the Genus, Gastrolobium. In the late 1860’s, samples of these plants in various stages of growth were forwarded via the Colonial Secretary to Dr Ferdinand Mueller at the Melbourne Botanical Gardens in Victoria for inspection. Dr Mueller then sent the samples off to Professor Wittstein in Munich, Germany, for chemical analysis.. He requested to Professor Wittstein of the samples, “You probably know that large tracts of the West Australian Colony are valueless as pasture for sheep, Oxen, and horses from the superabundance of this noxious plant and it’s cognate species. ….Now it would be interesting to discover wherein the deadly effects of the poison lies.”

    From those initial samples, not very much was able to be determined of the toxin in the plant that was responsible for the death of grazing stock. It was not until 1896 that a Belgian chemist, Swarts, was able to isolate the fluoro-acetate compound and synthesise it artificially using a treatment of methyl-iodoacetate with silver fluoride, a rather expensive and inefficient procedure..

    There was not much demand for this highly toxic, very expensive, difficult to synthesise chemical agent and it was only trialled in Germany in the 30’s as a moth deterrent. 

    “It was not until the outbreak of World War II that a sinister possible use for the toxin was proposed. 
    Under the stress of World War II chemists in England, Germany and their Allied countries sought to develop chemicals (independently, of course!) which would incapacitate, maim, or kill the enemy. These remarkably successful researches led to the synthesis and large-scale production of several types of warfare agents: nerve gases, vesicant agents, tear gases, harassing compounds, and, perhaps the most frightening of all, WATER POISONS.”

    For the latter kind of chemical agent it can be easily envisaged that a secret agent could poison the water supply of a large enemy populace with but a small amount of a toxic chemical. The requirements for a water poison are stringent: it should be colourless, odourless, soluble, stable, and highly toxic, preferably with a delayed action to prevent early detection and NO ANTIDOTE to counteract it’s deployment and efficacy as a WMD. It therefore must have come as quite a surprise to chemists in England, Germany, and Poland when they discovered independently during the early stages of the war that a simple derivative of acetic acid fulfils all of the above criteria for an ideal water poison! This compound is methyl fluoro-acetate (MFA) and it along with fluoro-acetic acid (FA) and 2-fluoro-ethanol, represents one of the most toxic classes of non-protein substances known. 

    MFA (Sodium-Mono-Fluoro-Acetate) was born as a Weapon of Mass Destruction to silently poison potentially millions of civilians during wartime. Thankfully it was never deployed as such, but there are anecdotal stories of it being tested on civilian populations in NAZI occupied territories in Eastern Europe. It has been said that Himmler himself deemed it too inhumane and dangerous for his elite SS troops to handle. It is likely that the use of Sodium-Mono-Fluoro-Acetate was not pursued for the extermination of populations in occupied eastern Europe because it was not efficient enough in that the time from ingestion to death took too long. A much quicker & efficient final solution was devised eventually. 

    By the end of the war several countries including England, the United States, Poland, and Germany had developed efficient pilot-plant methods for the preparation of MFA.

    After WWII, with no immediate potential use as a chemical warfare agent, the USA’s department of Agriculture & Food developed and produced the highly concentrated compound, (now known as Compound 1080 [Ten-Eighty] because of it’s production catalogue number) as a pesticide & predacide primarily to combat rodents. It was also found to be an effective and potent killer of Coyotes and Wolves. (Patent held by Monsanto until transferred to Tull Chemicals in Alabama in 1955) A willing & open market was soon found in Australia to Kill Dingoes, previously killed by unrestricted & liberal use of Strychnine. With dozens of accidental deaths, murders & suicides every year in Australia attributed to Strychnine poison, Ten-Eighty (1080) was quickly adopted and marketed as the ‘safe & natural’ alternative. The spin and propaganda to sell to the Australian market was that 1080 was a natural poison derived from native Australian plants and would not harm the native fauna. Although the Spin to the New Zealand market was contradictory as it was marketed there to specifically kill native Australian possums that had become invasive after introduction to provide a Pelt & Fur industry with stock.

    1080 Sodium-Mono-Fluoro-Acetate has been banned widely worldwide, including its country of manufacture, the USA, because of it’s inhumane nature of death, acute toxicity, environmental impact and potential threat to human life. Australia & New Zealand import 95% of production and there is a vast stockpile held by Tull Chemicals in Alabama. Australians have long been duped by the spin and propaganda of this toxin’s supposed natural innocent origin and immunity of Australian wildlife. Even government bodies in Australia still spout rubbish that 1080 is ‘harvested’ from the native pea. Nothing could be further from the truth. The artificially synthesised, concentrated & manufactured toxin was born of War to silently kill humans in their thousands by secreting it into their drinking water. It is as natural as Sodium-Cyanide is to the bitter taste of an Apricot kernel.

    From an innocent query of an Australian squatter about a poisonous plant killing his cows, to a Melbourne Botanist, to a colleague in Munich, to a Belgian chemist, to NAZI & Allied scientists, to a WMD, to Monsanto and back to Australia…

    There remains the sinister question of, why does the USA still permit the manufacture by the Tonne of this toxin by a sole operator in a small blue shed in the backwoods of Alabama when they have banned domestic use in their own country? Why is Australia and New Zealand still being encouraged by the USA to import and use it? Are we keeping it’s only manufacture and synthesis plant operational for a reason? What potential future use may the US Government have for this chemical?

    Acutely toxic to humans, concentrated, colourless, odourless, tasteless, stable, highly water soluble, delayed death. NO ANTIDOTE.. The perfect Weapon of Mass Destruction.

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