A government scheme to scatter poison worries New Zealanders

Jan 04, 2019

Poison pennant

IT IS AN unusual stance for animal-lovers, but conservationists in New Zealand are hoping to bring about a mass extermination—of non-native species. Though local fauna everywhere suffer from foreign invaders, animals in New Zealand are particularly vulnerable, since they evolved in the complete absence of mammals, bar a few species of bats. That made local birds and reptiles easy pickings for the rats that arrived on Maori canoes in the 13th century and, later, the stoats and possums that accompanied European settlers.

It is these hungry four-legged immigrants, along with habitat loss, that are largely responsible for pushing 800 native species to the brink of extinction. In 2016, to save them, the Department of Conservation (DOC) launched “Predator Free 2050”, a plan to eradicate unwanted mammals. To succeed, the scheme will need a technological breakthrough: an infertility gene that...

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