New Zealand aims to eradicate invasive predators but winning public support may

first_img Email Last month, a bioethics panel made up of experts from about a dozen perspectives—including an ecologist, a geneticist, a lawyer, a hunter, and a Māori leader—gathered here for the first time to discuss the ethical and social challenges to eradicating invasive predators. At the same time, a separate group of researchers is getting ready to conduct a national survey aimed at gauging the public’s tolerance for novel predator control technologies.The massive eradication effort—dubbed Predator Free 2050—calls for wiping out millions of brush-tailed possums, rats, and stoats (a type of weasel) that threaten native birds and other species. Experts say current control technologies, which rely heavily on toxin-laced baits, won’t do the job. So new—and likely controversial—methods are needed, perhaps including genetic modifications that prevent predators from reproducing. And the effort won’t be cheap; eradication could cost one-quarter of New Zealand’s gross domestic product, according to some estimates. So backers say public support will be crucial for success.Polls show that New Zealanders strongly support protecting native species. (The country has one of the highest extinction rates in the world.) But “the devil is in the details” when it comes to rolling out eradication programs, says Russell, one of the country’s top predator control experts. Though the public has generally supported clearing invaders from uninhabited islands around New Zealand’s fringe, there’s been some resistance to control efforts in populated areas. Ecologist Cam Speedy of Wildlife Management Associates in Turangi, New Zealand, says that many of the people he works with in rural areas, for example, oppose the use of toxins to control invasive predators. “They’re hunters and gatherers, they get food from these places, and these toxins are seen as a threat to their food supply,” he told ScienceInsider after last month’s bioethics meeting. “And things like genetically modified organisms scare people.”To learn more about how New Zealanders think about such issues, a group led by Edy MacDonald, who heads the Department of Conservation’s social science team in Wellington, is finalizing a national survey. The goal is to uncover not just what concerns people, but why. “Whatever their response is, we need to work with that and have that conversation,” she says. “‘So you’re not comfortable with that technology? Why? Tell me more.’”The survey is specifically designed to reveal the values underlying people’s opinions. Research suggests that presenting people “with the facts has rarely swayed minds,” MacDonald says. “You have to talk to them based on their value system, and understand their value systems.”The survey’s findings will be included in a report that the bioethics panel plans to release next year on incorporating ethical and social concerns into the Predator Free New Zealand program. “We’re really hoping the report will be internationally useful as well,” says Russell, by offering guidance to other island governments—such as those in Hawaii and the Galápagos—looking to eradicate invasive predators. By April ReeseJul. 10, 2017 , 1:45 PM AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND—A year ago, the national government here announced a bold plan to rid the country of a trio of invasive predators that threatens native birds. Experts say the task will require new technologies—such as deadlier toxins and possibly even the release of genetically modified organisms—that have yet to be invented. But winning public support for using these new methods could be an even bigger task, scientists say.Moving any new control measures from the lab to the landscape will be “as much of a social challenge as it is a biological challenge,” says conservation biologist James Russell of the University of Auckland in New Zealand.With that in mind, scientists are eyeing a social experiment to rival the biological one: finding ways to include the public early and often in discussing predator control plans, and allowing people to have a say in which methods are deployed.  Tobias Bernhard Raff/Minden Pictures Sign up for our daily newsletter Get more great content like this delivered right to you! Countrycenter_img New Zealand aims to eradicate invasive predators, but winning public support may be big challenge Click to view the privacy policy. Required fields are indicated by an asterisk (*) The brush-tailed possum may be cute, but the invader is posing a serious threat to New Zealand’s native species. Country * Afghanistan Aland Islands Albania Algeria Andorra Angola Anguilla Antarctica Antigua and Barbuda Argentina Armenia Aruba Australia Austria Azerbaijan Bahamas Bahrain Bangladesh Barbados Belarus Belgium Belize Benin Bermuda Bhutan Bolivia, Plurinational State of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba Bosnia and Herzegovina Botswana Bouvet Island Brazil British Indian Ocean Territory Brunei Darussalam Bulgaria Burkina Faso Burundi Cambodia Cameroon Canada Cape Verde Cayman Islands Central African Republic Chad Chile China Christmas Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands Colombia Comoros Congo Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Cook Islands Costa Rica Cote d’Ivoire Croatia Cuba Curaçao Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Djibouti Dominica Dominican Republic Ecuador Egypt El Salvador Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Estonia Ethiopia Falkland Islands (Malvinas) Faroe Islands Fiji Finland France French Guiana French Polynesia French Southern Territories Gabon Gambia Georgia Germany Ghana Gibraltar Greece Greenland Grenada Guadeloupe Guatemala Guernsey Guinea Guinea-Bissau Guyana Haiti Heard Island and McDonald Islands Holy See (Vatican City State) Honduras Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran, Islamic Republic of Iraq Ireland Isle of Man Israel Italy Jamaica Japan Jersey Jordan Kazakhstan Kenya Kiribati Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Lao People’s Democratic Republic Latvia Lebanon Lesotho Liberia Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Macao Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Madagascar Malawi Malaysia Maldives Mali Malta Martinique Mauritania Mauritius Mayotte Mexico Moldova, Republic of Monaco Mongolia Montenegro Montserrat Morocco Mozambique Myanmar Namibia Nauru Nepal Netherlands New Caledonia New Zealand Nicaragua Niger Nigeria Niue Norfolk Island Norway Oman Pakistan Palestine Panama Papua New Guinea Paraguay Peru Philippines Pitcairn Poland Portugal Qatar Reunion Romania Russian Federation Rwanda Saint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Martin (French part) Saint Pierre and Miquelon Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Samoa San Marino Sao Tome and Principe Saudi Arabia Senegal Serbia Seychelles Sierra Leone Singapore Sint Maarten (Dutch part) Slovakia Slovenia Solomon Islands Somalia South Africa South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands South Sudan Spain Sri Lanka Sudan Suriname Svalbard and Jan Mayen Swaziland Sweden Switzerland Syrian Arab Republic Taiwan Tajikistan Tanzania, United Republic of Thailand Timor-Leste Togo Tokelau Tonga Trinidad and Tobago Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan Turks and Caicos Islands Tuvalu Uganda Ukraine United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United States Uruguay Uzbekistan Vanuatu Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of Vietnam Virgin Islands, British Wallis and Futuna Western Sahara Yemen Zambia Zimbabwelast_img read more

Read More »