By - Wayne Linklater 09/05/2017

I have established that Predator Free 2050 (PF2050) is not scientifically rational because it can’t be done and carries with it extraordinary scientific, political and social risks for gains that are less than required to address our nation’s environmental and biodiversity challenges.

Instead of PF2050 it would be more sensible, lower risk and increase our chances of sustained biodiversity conservation if we worked with current technologies and took their gradual, incremental improvements as a bonus.

Fortunately, there is a rational and scientific alternative, developed over the last 50 years, and it is called Integrated Landscape and Pest Management.

First, we have proven that it is possible to protect our most vulnerable biodiversity in sanctuaries and reserves.

Second, we know how to scientifically manage predators around those sanctuaries, the halo, so that they support greater numbers of our less vulnerable biodiversity.

These zones also provide us opportunities to investigate other ways of reducing the impact of depredation across larger areas where predators cannot be eradicated. Conservationists have largely equated depredation as solvable only by killing predators but ecology is complex and tells us something very different.

All native prey are not equally vulnerable and similarly vulnerable in all habitats. And predator control doesn’t benefit all native species. NZ ecologists haven’t asked as much about the science of how habitat can be managed and grown to reduce depredation’s impact (e.g., refugia and compensatory reproduction) while expanding biodiversity spatial range because it allows coexistence with predators. We should investigate these ecologically rich themes with greater effort rather than the jingoism and slogans of PF2050.

Third, we also know how to manage those sanctuaries and their halos as a connected national network of biodiversity using landscape corridors and transfers.

Last, but most importantly, we know how to reverse the decline of New Zealand’s indigenous biodiversity in the 67% of our country that is our farmed and urban landscapes.

These things are possible, achievable with current technology and a modest increase in conservation budgets, and they would deliver greater biodiversity gains than PF 2050 at less cost and with fewer scientific, political and social risks.

Integrated Landscape Management and Integrated Pest Management includes some predator control because it is a necessary part of the solution but incorporates a greater number of objectives and diversity of approaches at the different scales at which they can be most effective, including habitat enhancement and the management of predator-prey biological communities.

Ecological science knows how to do this stuff well and we do a lot of it already. We just need to scale it up and coordinate it better nationally.

In arriving at PF 2050 we have ignored that science, expertise and experience and sacrificed it for an impossible and expensive but under-resourced political strategy.

PF2050 might be “exciting” but it is not rational.


Featured image: Buffy May / flickr. 

0 Responses to “We can do better than Predator Free 2050”

  • The author seems to believe that Predator Free 2050 and managed sanctuaries & haloes for native flora & fauna are somehow antithetical. By all means, let’s have sanctuaries & haloes, but let’s aim for a future where we don’t need them, because the whole of NZ is a sanctuary.

    • Hi Edmund,
      Thank you for your comment.
      Yes, I do think they are antithetical. One is not possible but the other is. One involves large scientific, political and social risks and the other much less so. One is highly selective of the ecological science used to support it while the other is informed by over a half century of inter-disciplinary ecological science, especially around Integrated Landscape and Pest Management. One will require that conservationists ride rough-shod over the values of other New Zealanders while the other much less so.

      I could go on.

      We don’t need the sort of extremist, absolutionist, and jingoistic policy that is Predator Free 2050 to make progress in conservation. In fact, I argue that sustained progress in conservation requires that we be less of these things.

      Predator Free 2050 is antithetical to politically, socially and biological sustainable conservation.


      • It’s a pity that you’re so invested in the underwhelming “little sanctuary” idea that you can’t even acknowledge that a larger sanctuary — NZ — is a worthwhile goal.

  • Excellent Wayne, Good to hear at last expert voices from ecology science challenging the PF2050 simplistic slogans and juggernaut chemical approach to managing complex NZ ecosystems. Also you acknowledge how the currentmodel, with its crude untargeted aerial bombing methods, runs roughshod over “the values of other New Zealanders”. So true. Many rural people see what actually is going on, and are impacted in their water supplies, their access to wild food and medicine, and the stereotyping, slurs and disrespect they get for dissgreeing with the dominant conservation militaristic paradigm.

  • As an ex-Forest Service and DoC ranger, I worked on quite a few 1080 operations ( the first in 1974, the last in 2006) and saw first hand the cruelty being dished out. As a 30 year resident of Minginui, I also saw the divisive effect (officialdom versus rural poor), its use has on small communities. It’s a deadly poison its job is to create ill-feeling. If people say they do not want poisons in their back yard, that should be the end of it. What pan-discipline scientific theory or timeless philosophical wisdom proclaims deadly poison as a cure for ecological woes? Woes that are only in the eye of an observer who fails to recognise what is being looked at and creates battles and barriers in a War against Nature. The latest science, not 60-year-old cross word solutions, should be applied to our relationship with ecosystems. The latest science says; everything is connected, intimately related and far more amazing and mysterious than we can yet imagine. It also says; matter can never be destroyed and nothing goes backwards. Everything is continuously evolving in this very moment. So why would anyone want to try and take the controls of such a complex mechanism and assume to know what’s best for all, by slowly killing millions of animals?

    • Amen! Thank you for your personal and in depth educated voice! Much needed in a time of blatant ignorance being fuelled by those self serving few.

  • It seems we’re being presented with 3 options. The two proposed by Wayne and Edmund, and the third proposed by Andy, which is to do nothing and let Nature evolve. That seems to assume the kinds of human activity that exterminated so many of New Zealand’s pre-human animal species can somehow be ended without anyone “taking the controls.” Good luck with that Andy. For my part, I’d like to see all the pests introduced by humans, including cats and dogs, exterminated by whatever methods will work, except in zoos; all further human intervention strictly controlled, then let Nature flourish.

  • One potential problem (more like a potential disaster, actually) is that if all introduced predators were removed (which they never will be, I expect, but hypothetically), populations of native birds would explode back to pre-predator levels, but into a N.Z. environment which is now drastically changed since pre-predator times, i.e. much less native forest. This could cause major problems for native insects and plants in the remaining native forests (i.e. too many birds), and the birds could also move out into agricultural and even urban areas in plague proportions, causing further problems.