Hardware retailer Bunnings will make a major change in how it displays poisons directly linked to illness and death in wildlife.
Traces of rodenticides have been found in the bodies of birds including wedge-tailed eagles and boobook owls, as well as goannas, which frequently succumb to the effects of eating mice laced with the baits.
The new move will see more harmful rat poisons separated from other baits, to help consumers navigate between the two.
While some active ingredients are more harmful than others, all rodenticides have traditionally been placed side-by-side on shelves, which critics say has made it hard for consumers to differentiate between them.
Active ingredients are often placed in fine print on the front of packaging, which Edith University’s Dr Michael Lohr says can be “tricky” for shoppers to understand.
While not wanting to single out Yate’s as they are just one supplier, he said their Fast Action Ratsak contains brodifacoum, a product known to be more harmful to wildlife, but Double Strength Ratsak lists the milder warfarin as its active ingredient.
“It’s almost impossible to make any sort of informed choice on this when you’re buying them, because most of the brands will make both first and generation products with extremely similar names,” he said.
Bunnings outlines major change to rat bait displays
In a statement, Bunnings general manager of merchandise Adrian Pearce said the company has been working with poisons regulator Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) in recent months to include additional information on packaging for consumers, as well adding updates to their website.
“We understand there are risks associated with the use of second generation anticoagulant rodenticides (SGARs) for birds and some wildlife, and we proactively promote the safe use of these products and support customers in making informed purchasing decisions,” he said.
Mr Pearce said additional training will be given to staff to help improve their knowledge about the topic.
“We are also in the process of implementing the separation of first generation and second generation rat poison varieties, along with naturally-derived rodenticides on our shelves to further assist with easier customer product selection,” he confirmed.
Yates told Yahoo News Australia they understand that second generation rat baits "can pose a risk of poisoning for non-target animals" but said they provide "clear warnings" on packaging.
"We also include this information for our consumers on our website," a spokesperson said.
"Brodifacoum is clearly labelled as an ‘active ingredient’ on the front packaging of any Ratsak products that contain brodifacoum."
Birdlife Australia calls on Bunnings to take harmful poisons off shelves
Birdlife Australia’s Dr Holly Parsons said while Bunnings’ announcement was a “good first step”, separating products on the shelves does nothing to get "deadly products out of consumers' hands", and away from wildlife.
“If those products are still on the shelves and people in general don’t know the difference between first generation and second generation products, then that won’t effect change," she told Yahoo News Australia.
“To protect our birds and other wildlife we don’t want these products available at all.
“They have alternatives, they have the first generation products, and there are a range of traps and different rodenticides out there to manage rodent problems.”
“They can do more, and more needs to happen, and Bunnings have an opportunity to really lead the way."
The author, Michael Dahlstrom, has volunteered as a native bird carer.
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