Say ‘cyanide’ and people rear back in horror. It is a lethal killer. One lick, whether you are a possum or a person, and you are dead. So cyanide use is strictly regulated and can only be used by qualified operators.

But because it is so toxic, cyanide is also a very fast and humane killer. Some wily pests have learned to avoid the less toxic bait which volunteers can handle so cyanide is another tool to kill the possums, stoats, and rats that are killing our forest and its wildlife.

Thanks to sponsorship from DOC, Western BOP District Council and the Regional Council, the Aongatete Forest Restoration Trust has been able to pay for four volunteers to be trained and become licensed cyanide operators. Earlier this month, while the weather was cold and the forest pests were hungry, regular volunteers went through the forest, luring the possums with sweet, aniseed-flavoured flour and peanut butter – tasty and harmless bait. Then some days later, the cyanide operators followed with the toxic bait, putting it up on tree trunks to avoid poisoning the flightless weka which were recently re-introduced to Aongatete. Then finally the operators went through again, removing any uneaten poison.

It was a lot of work but we hope that this complicated operation has decimated the pests so that in Springtime Aongatete forest will be a haven and a larder for nesting birds and other wildlife.