Conservationists seek to bring back banned Compound 1080 poison
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 2004:
KATHU, South Africa; SACRAMENTO, Califonia–Thirty-two
years after then-U.S. President Richard Nixon outraged ranchers by
partially banning sodium monofluoroacetate to protect wildlife, a
year before signing the Endangered Species Act, some leading
conservation groups are aligned with ranchers worldwide to expand the
use of the poison, better known as Compound 1080.
The conservationist arguments are that nothing else is as
effective in killing “invasive” species, and no other poison is as
easily used to kill only those predators who actually attack
“The Poison Working Group of the Endangered Wildlife Trust,
the National Wool-growers Association, and Cape Wools have over the
last three years combined to try to legalize and promote the use of
this poison in South Africa, to exterminate or control black-backed
jackals and caracals,” charged Kalahari Raptor Centre co-director
Chris Mercer in a March 2004 position paper. Compound 1080 is to be
applied to baits hung one meter above the ground, Mercer said.
“The theory is that only the larger jackal [and caracal] could reach this bait, and that the smaller Cape fox and bat-eared
fox could not,” Mercer continued. “Working daily with small
mammals,” including experience with jackals, caracals, and both
fox species, “we know that the poisoned baits will be easily reached
by all of them. The foxes will jump for them, and striped polecats,
meerkats, and mongooses will climb to get them. The Endangered
Wildlife Trust war on our wildlife will wipe out our small mammals.
“We have many years of experience farming with sheep,”
Mercer continued, “and we can testify that the use of poisons and
traps is completely unnecessary, We farmed in the Transvaal for 12
years, in an area thick with jackals, simply by adopting sensible
management. We changed from Dorper sheep to the indigenous Damara
breed, brought the flock into a corral at night, and kept pregnant
ewes and young lambs in a safe camp near our house. The Endangered
Wildlife Trust extermination campaign seems to us to be a wholly
unnecessary, utterly destructive attempt to shield unscientific
farmers from themselves.”
Poison Working Group of the Endangered Wildlife Trust chair
Gerhard H. Verdoom explained in 1999 that his organization endorses
Compound 1080 as an alternative to the use of carbofuran. The latter,
wrote Verdoom, is “extremely toxic and often causes the death of
innocent scavengers such as vultures.” Compound 1080, Verdoom
argued, “is lethal to animals such as jackal and caracal, but is
much less toxic to birds of prey. Owing to its instability, the
product most probably does not cause secondary poisoning.”
Mercer and South African National Council of SPCAs
spokesperson Christine Kuch have often clashed over other issues,
but Kuch rebutted Verdoom’s claims.
After opposing use of Compound 1080 because “it causes a
prolonged and agonizing death in carnivores,” Kuch listed the risk
of secondary poisoning as the second of 10 reasons why Compound 1080
should remain banned. “Compound 1080 is highly poisonous to birds,”
Kuch wrote. “This includes the consequences of a vulture, for
example, ingesting a poisoned jackal.”
The Registry of Toxic Effects of Chemical Substances,
published by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and National
Institute of Occupational Safety & Health, lists results from LD-50
tests of sodium monofluroacetate performed on chickens, ducks,
quail, and unspecified other bird species between 1947 and 1971.
All were killed with exposure to no more than five milligrams per
kilogram of body weight: the same dose ratio that killed human
beings in Nazi experiments during World War II.
Kuch also cited “potential illegal possession and misuse of
the substance to kill pets. There is a current crisis involving
widespread illegal use of the agricultural poison Aldicarb to poison
dogs to eave the way open for criminals to break into domestic
properties,” Kuch wrote, noting that Compound 1080 is easier to use
and harder to recognize.
Nixon halted the use of Compound 1080, but not possessing or
Sold since 1956 as Compound 1080, sodium monofluoroacetate
is produced by Tull Chemical of Oxford, Alabama. Charles Wigley,
identified by Charlotte Tubbs of the Anniston Star as “the owner and
sole operator of the plant,” reportedly makes each batch
specifically to order, ships it immediately, and does not store any
Tubbs interviewed Wigley after U.S. Representative Peter
DeFazio (D-Oregon), writing as a senior member of the House Select
Committee on Homeland Security, in early March 2004 urged EPA chief
administrator Mike Leavitt to close Tull Chemical.
“The potential for abuse of Com-pound 1080 in this age of
terrorism is obvious,” DeFazio said, after briefings by Brooks
Fahey of the Predator Defense Institute and Camilla Fox of the Animal
Fahey has been fighting expanded use of Compound 1080 since the early
1980s, when former U.S. President Ronald Reagan amended Nixon’s
partial ban to allow the agency then called Animal Damage Control and
now called USDA Wildlife Services to use 1080-coated sheep collars to
kill coyotes as they bite the throats of the sheep. Compound 1080
collars were used to kill 27 coyotes in 2001. According to DeFazio
and Fahey this was close to the annual average.
Developed in Germany as a rodenticide, Compound 1080 is
odorless, has no taste, and is lethal if ingested, inhaled, or
absorbed through skin contact.
Apart from the Nazi experiments, at least 13 humans have
been killed by Com-pound 1080 accidents and use as a murder weapon.
Three children were killed in an Oklahoma City incident in lwhich
Compound 1080 was spread on vanilla wafers.
However, Compound 1080 rapidly biodegrades, and Wigley told
Tubbs that poisoning a water supply with it would take more than he
has ever made in a year. His biggest customers, Wigley said, are
the New Zealand Department of Conservation and Department of
Agriculture. New Zealand reportedly uses 90% of global production of
Compound 1080 to kill bush possums and other non-native mammals.
Australian government agencies are the next biggest purchasers.
Applied Down Under
While the Royal Forest & Bird Society and many other
conservation groups in New Zealand and Australia endorse the use of
Compound 1080 against non-native species, the Tasmanian Conservation
Trust, founded in 1968, disapproves of it under any pretext.
“Currently around 80 metric tons of carrot bait impregnated
with 1080 poison are laid in Tasmania annually to kill wallabies and
possums,” says the Tasmanian Conservation Trust web site. “Tens of
thousands of animals suffer protracted and distressing deaths simply
to maximise profits for forestry companies and a small percentage of
farmers and graziers. The public has no recourse to stop a 1080 drop
in their neighbourhood despite the fact that many pet dogs are killed
every year by secondary poisoning. Secrecy surrounds the use of 1080
and its administration by the Tasmanian government. There is no
public record of who uses 1080 or where.”
The Tasmanian Conservation Trust cites a 1989 Tasmanian
government Wildlife Advisory Committee finding that native nontarget
species afflicted by incidental Compound 1080 poisoning include
“wombats, potoroos, bandicoots (including the threatened eastern
barred bandicoot), the Tasmanian bettong (extinct on the mainland),
cockatoos, parrots, the broad-toothed rat, the New Holland
mouse, and the long-tailed mouse. Contract workers who collect the
dead animals for disposal,” the Tasmanian Conservation Trust
continues, “report picking up ringtail possums, eastern quolls,
shrike-thrushes, forest ravens, herons, hawks and owls. Any
creature who eats carrots, meat, or invertebrates who feed on
carrion is at risk.
“In Western Australia,” the Tasmanian Conservation Trust
acknowledges, “sodium monofluoroacetate occurs naturally in some
native plants, and as a result, native animals have evolved some
tolerance to it. To save threatened marsupial species from
extinction in Western Australia, Compound 1080 has been used to to
eradicate foxes and feral cats. In other parts of Australia 1080 is
used, in spite of growing opposition, to poison rabbits, pigs,
wild dogs, and dingos. But even where Compound 1080 is used for
conservation purposes, its use is contentious because of its
excessive cruelty to victims.”
Chrissy Hynde, lead singer for the Pretenders, on March 22,
2004 represented PETA in asking tourists to boycott Tasmania until
the use of Compound 1080 stops.
Ironically, use of Compound 1080 may end relatively soon
simply because it is losing market share to Feratox, a cyanide-based
poison developed by Feral R&D, of East Tamaki, New Zealand.
“Feratox already kills an estimated eight million possums a
year in New Zealand,” wrote Simon Collins of the New Zealand Herald
in January 2004. “Feral R&D is now working on versions of the poison
to kill foxes, wild dogs, and pigs in Australia, and foxes,
wolves, and pumas in Peru and Chile. The company claims a
world-first process for encapsulating cyanide in resin. The coating
stops the poison from converting instantly into a gas,” Collins
Feratox was invented with financial support from the New
Zealand Animal Health Board and Technology New Zealand. “The poison
is now made by another East Tamaki company, Connovation, a name
taken from the words ‘conservation by innovation,'” Collins said.
Since Feratox was introduced in 1997, Feral R&D managing director
Jeremy Kerr told Collins, it has captured “about 40% of the New
Zealand possum poison market.”
U.S. opponents of Compound 1080 are unable to find out
exactly where Compound 1080 is used because of an injunction obtained
by the Texas Farm Bureau Federation and the American Farm Bureau
Federation in February 2000, responding to a 1998 Freedom of
Information Act request filed by API. The Farm Bureaus argued that
releasing the information might expose ranchers to “terrorism.” AWI
appealed, but the appeal was denied on September 30, 2002 by U.S.
District Judge Walter Smith, of Waco, Texas. Smith had also issued
the preliminary injuction.
Use of Compound 1080 was meanwhile banned in California as
part of an anti-trapping ballot initiative approved by the voters in
1998. The initiative was weakened in 2002 by a lawsuit brought by
the National Audubon Society and California Waterfowl Association,
who successfully contended that the state prohibition cannot apply to
activities of federal agencies undertaken on behalf of endangered
species. The initiative has also been jeopardized by repeal bills
repeatedly introduced by pro-trapping state legislators.
“We continue to work to defend the ban on Compound 1080 in
California,” Fox told ANIMAL PEOPLE.
Compound 1080 is not legal for private use in the U.S., but
illegal use still occurs. On January 16, 2004, the U.S. Fish &
Wildlife Service confirmed that Compound 1080 was used to kill
radio-collared wolf B-143 in mid-May 2003, six miles northwest of
Clayton, Idaho, and posted a reward of up to $2,500 for
“information leading to an arrest or conviction of the person or
persons responsible for the poisoning.”