Surveillance of TB status in the Hokonui Hills

Date 26 June 2017

In collaboration with Landcare Research, OSPRI undertook, over the last 2-3 years, operational research activity in the Hokonui Hills, with the aim of developing a proof of concept methodology for eradicating TB in possums. This research activity was directed at applying known operational technologies over large land mass areas, that had dense bushland and habitat alongside known possum populations carrying TB. The research also involved radio-tracking possums, monitoring possum numbers pre and post aerial control and performing necropsies on possums plus intensive surveillance of other species such as pigs to look for the presence, or absence, of TB. The aim of the work is to prove the feasibility of eradication and also to determine the most efficient way of achieving this.

The standard programme for eradication of TB from possums in bush areas involves up to three aerials for intensive possum control, followed by surveillance of possums and/or other species such as ferrets and pigs to prove freedom.  The research program however, involved undertaking a reduced number of aerials, coupled with ground control and intensive surveillance activity, rather than the standard 3 aerial applications followed by routine surveillance.

Recent surveillance work has since identified a pig with TB. The research outcomes had indicated that the likelihood of this finding indicating ongoing TB infection in the local possum population was very low. However, given these recent findings, OSPRI is now undertaking our standard approach which means we will pursue surveillance to assess the potential level and spread of infection and based on the outcomes of this, apply control as may be required. OSPRI will be continuing with our planned pigs surveys for the area this 2017-2018 year and then following further information from this surveillance, decisions will then be made as to further possum control in the near future, should the degree of prevalence of TB infection indicate that this is required.


OSPRI helps protect and enhance the reputation of New Zealand’s primary industries. It currently runs the NAIT and TBfree programmes. OSPRI is funded by DairyNZ, Beef + Lamb New Zealand, Deer Industry New Zealand and the New Zealand Government.  It provides knowledge and leadership in veterinary health, disease prevention, animal management, intellectual property, information technology and community liaison.


Oliver Bates
OSPRI Corporate Communications Manager
0277 054 995

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