• Christina Medhurst

What do tree planting and rodenticides have in common?...You might learn more than you expect!

Updated: Aug 12, 2020

Who is Landcare Tasmania?

Landcare Tasmania's vision is simple but ambitious - For all the land and coasts to be cared for by the community. It’s about empowering people to make a difference. Some of the common confusion about Landcare Tas is that they are a government agency or part of Landcare Australia or other organisations like NRM regions – they are none of these. Landcare Tas is an independent, non-profit incorporated association.

Since 1994, Landcare Tas has been helping local communities care for our land and coasts, farms and towns, waterways, and wildlife. Landcare Tas is the peak body that works to represent, support, strengthen, and grow Tasmania’s community Landcare. This community works on the ground to improve the health of our natural and working environments and is represented by people from the whole state, supported by over 260 local community groups.

What does a community group working-bee involve?

On a crisp Sunday winters morning, we joined Community Landcare Manager/Deputy CEO Pete Stronach and the Friends of Collinsvale Working Group at their bi-monthly working bee. The Friends of Collinsvale Working Group aims to help their small community understand what weeds are and how to control them. They run working bees to remove weeds and rubbish and address other issues as they arise.

On this particular Sunday, about 25 of us gathered in a small paddock in Glenusk. The owners of the paddock told community group leader Mark, they hoped to re-vegetate the paddock that was once home to sheep and horses back to its more natural state. Enter working-bee. After a tour of the property hearing interesting facts and a quick 'How to plant a tree' demonstration by Pete, it was time for us to divide into small groups, work together, get our hands dirty and start planting. We planted trees, shrubs, and grasses to restore the under-story of the paddock which helps to protect trees from climate change and improve the habitat for native wildlife.

How are rodenticides impacting our already endangered predators and wildlife?

The Glenlusk area is known as Grey Goshawk and Masked Owl habitat and by creating more cover we will help bandicoots and other native prey species enter the space to support these threatened raptors. We thought it was as simple as that until Pete talked about the devastating effects modern 'one-shot' rodenticides are having on our already threatened birds of prey. This planting was also part of the 'Southern Habitat Restoration and 'Reducing the Impact of Rodenticides Project' which is supported by the Australian Government's Community Environment Program. At this point, the day became less about volunteer tree planting and more about creating awareness about how vulnerable our native birds and animals are to the poisons we use in our homes to clear rodents. They are actually killing our owls, hawks, and eagles.

Of course, birds of prey play a key role in controlling rats and mice in natural, farming and urban situations, but we humans are choosing to use these 'one-shot' or 'single shot' products (no surprise there, we are the generation of needing everything done now) and when birds eat the dead or sick rodents that tend to head towards open spaces and bushland as they become increasingly unwell, preditors unknowingly eat them and they die too.

These 'one-shot' products cause victims to suffer greatly before dying. The poison causes suffering from uncontrolled bleeding or hemorrhaging, either spontaneously or from cuts or scratches. In the case of internally hemorrhaging, which is difficult to spot, the only sign of poisoning is that the animal is weak, or (occasionally) bleeding from the nose or mouth. Affected wildlife are more likely to crash into structures and vehicles, and be killed by predators.

These second-generation rodenticides only require a single dose to be consumed in order to be lethal, yet kill the animal slowly, meaning the animal keeps coming back. This results in the animal consuming many times more poison than a single lethal dose over the multiple days it takes them to die, during which time they are easy but lethal prey to predators. Small to mid-size mammals such as bandicoots, possums, wallabies, kangaroos, and wombats are often impacted and other predators and scavengers like quolls and devils are also at risk of secondary poisoning. If we can rebuild our native bird predator numbers by creating habitats that support their growth our birds can help do the work for us - but we need to give them the best opportunity to survive.

So what can you do to help keep our birds flying in the sky above us?

The older styled first-generation rodenticides have less impact, so can be a better choice where poisons are needed.

  • Use manual traps, these traps can be highly effective when numbers are low and we can discard the deceased rodents in a safe way.

  • If poisons are required, choose first-generation products with active ingredients Warfarin or Coumateralyl.

  • Avoid products with Brodifacoum or Bromadioline.

  • Use physical barriers in your yard so the rodents and animals can't get in.

  • Replace palms with native trees; palm trees are a favourite hideout for black rats, while native trees provide ideal habitat for native predators like owls and hawks which help to control rodent populations.

  • Lastly, educate others, Rodenticides are used everywhere – check yours to make sure you not using a product that is responsible for killing whatever animal eats the rodent.

Our choices and our actions do have a flow-on effect, we might not see the consequences first hand so we aren't aware of the impact they have. Our mission is to create awareness about some of the ways we can begin to implement small acts of kindness towards the planet. Every act of kindness towards each other and to our planet creates a new beginning and a new story in our minds, it doesn't matter how small the act or thought is. Perhaps next time you go to the supermarket to rid your home of those pesky rodents you will reach for a first-generation response option rather than the modern approaches that are doing more harm than good.

Community Landcare is all about people working together to address their environment, land management, and sustainability challenges, and sharing this with others and through their involvement with Landcare Tas.

To find out more or to join your local community group, click here.

We didn't expect to learn as much as we did and we can't wait to get our hands dirty again!

Landcare Tasmania is running a program to raise awareness of the positive choices that communities and businesses can make to reduce the impact of rodenticide poisons on raptors.

Please consider donating to the program, more information here.

#treecare #hobartarborco #tasmaniantreecare #rodenticides #volunteering #treeservice #arborist

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