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Research on Vertebrate Pesticides and Traps: Do Wild Animals Benefit?


Bruce Warburton and Cheryl O’Connor

New Zealand has a range of carnivorous and herbivorous mammals that were originally introduced for recreational, financial, aesthetic and biocontrol reasons, but which now pose significant threats to conservation and animal health values. Research is undertaken to develop new tools and strategies to manage these pests. Captive trials that are carried out include those to determine the toxicity of poisons, the efficacy of fertility control agents, and welfare impacts of poisons and traps. Field trials are undertaken to test the efficacy of poisons and traps, and large-scale management trials carried out to optimise control strategies. Although this research is aimed at managing animals, including killing them, we believe that there are benefits to both individual animals and animal populations that far exceed any cost of harm to individuals that are managed (often killed). We suggest that there are three levels of beneficiaries: the individuals of the pest species that are killed, the individuals in the surviving population, and the individuals and populations of other species. We provide examples of how wild animals can benefit from vertebrate pesticide and trap research.