Anticoagulant rodenticide exposure in an Australian predatory bird increases with proximity to developed habitat
School of Science
Anticoagulant rodenticides (ARs) are commonly used worldwide to control commensal rodents. Second generation anticoagulant rodenticides (SGARs) are highly persistent and have the potential to cause secondary poisoning in wildlife. To date no comprehensive assessment has been conducted on AR residues in Australian wildlife. My aim was to measure AR exposure in a common widespread owl species, the Southern Boobook (Ninox boobook) using boobooks found dead or moribund in order to assess the spatial distribution of this potential threat. A high percentage of boobooks were exposed (72.6%) and many showed potentially dangerous levels of AR residue (>0.1 mg/kg) in liver tissue (50.7%). Multiple rodenticides were detected in the livers of 38.4% of boobooks tested. Total liver concentration of ARs correlated positively with the proportions of developed areas around points where dead boobooks were recovered and negatively with proportions of agricultural and native land covers. Total AR concentration in livers correlated more closely with land use type at the spatial scale of a boobook's home range than at smaller or larger spatial scales. Two rodenticides not used by the public (difethialone and flocoumafen) were detected in boobooks indicating that professional use of ARs contributed to secondary exposure. Multiple ARs were also detected in recent fledglings, indicating probable exposure prior to fledging. Taken together, these results suggest that AR exposure poses a serious threat to native predators in Australia, particularly in species using urban and peri-urban areas and species with large home ranges.