What is "Curiosity" cat bait and why should you care? Article #1

July 13, 2016

“... While it has commonly been said or implied that PAPP is ‘safe’ because there is a cheap, readily available and effective antidote, this message now requires further qualifying and clarification…”

~ Animal Control Technologies Newsletter, July 2016

In 2002, the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) began a review into the use of 1080 over concerns of the poisoning of non-target animals. 

There was also growing public concern about 1080’s use, with the RSPCA calling the poison “inhumane” and well-known issues with pets and working dogs being killed by the baits.

Sensing they might lose their favourite poison the Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) joined forces with the Australian government (Invasive Animals CRC) to make a significant investment - more than $4 million dollars - in a new poison that could be sold to the public as safer and kinder to the target animals.

The result is Para-amino-propiophenone (short name ‘PAPP’).

The first products containing PAPP have now been approved for use for dogs and foxes. When the bait is for dogs and dingoes, its brand name is DOGABAIT. When the bait is for foxes, it is known as FOXECUTE®. And when it is for killing cats (not yet approved) the brand is called Curiosity®.

So is it actually safer?

PAPP causes methaemoglobin in blood. An animal that experiences high levels of methaemoglobin is unable to deliver oxygen to tissues such as the heart, brain and diaphragm, so will become unconscious and die. Typically an animal will die within 1.5 hrs of ingesting a bait. 

Unlike 1080 where ‘some’ native animals have ‘some’ resistance ‘some’ of the time, PAPP has been shown to kill native carnivores (quolls), bandicoots, goannas and many birds; the most vulnerable include the mallard duck, the New Zealand weka, the Little Australian Raven and red-winged blackbird.

It is also toxic to humans - to receive a fatal dose, an 80 kg person would have to consume approximately 8 baits. For a toddler a fatal dose would be much, much smaller.

It is obviously still dangerous to domestic pets, with dogs dying in as little as half and hour. But the biggest selling point to the public for the poison was the idea of an ‘antidote’. The much celebrated methylene blue, or Blue Healer™

Is there an antidote for PAPP? Yes. The chemical methylene blue converts met-haemoglobin back to haemoglobin and immediately reverses the effects of PAPP poisoning, with full recovery usually occurring within 1 hour…”

~ Invasive Animals CRC website promotion

However, since the original claims of safety for pets, the less rosey truth has come out about this so-called 'antidote' for pet owners.

Profe􏰁􏰁ssor Linton S􏰀taple􏰁s 􏰁said ACTA had 􏰂been under the impression that the antidote wa􏰁s “cheap, ea􏰁􏰄sy to administer and worked a treat”. 

“But now we are finding out that it is a bit more complicated.”PAPP’􏰁s antidote 􏰁stor􏰄y wa􏰁s “over􏰁sold”, he 􏰁said

In short, PAPP is so fast acting and the ‘antidote’ so potentially toxic itself, that the chances of successful recovery are at best “uncertain”. Also, the initial symptoms of poisoning by PAPP (lethargy, sleeping) makes the chances of early detection LESS likely in a poisoned pet.

But that doesn’t mean its supporters can’t go nuts with it.

“PAPP isn’t a ‘toxic’ chemical like mercury, lead, dioxins or banned poisonous pesticides.”

“It can be thrown—under a licence, of course—off the backs of Toyota LandCruisers or even distributed out of aeroplanes.... 

The fox baiters will not have to bury their bait and do all of those much more expensive things that farmers need to do with the 1080 baits, which need to be buried for foxes.”

~ Gregory Andrews: Threatened Species Commissioner

and (highlighting mine)

... an additional bait type is urgently needed – especially in the peri-urban fringe where 1080 use is so encumbered.”
~ ACTA website

Studies have shown PAPP baits remain lethal for several weeks in the environment, significantly longer than the 1 – 2 week period it takes for 1080 baits to become inactive.

So this new bait PAPP is actually probably MORE dangerous to pets than 1080 simply on potential access (weeks to months, rather than days), the more liberal application (chuck it from a plane!) and simply that a pet who is poisoned will sleep his way through the small window of opportunity for treatment with an ineffective antidote.

So with so many obvious risks to pets, the public and our native animals, why are we seeing such a push to develop an expanded range of applications of PAPP baits?

“A royalty from the sales will be returned to the IA-CRC and AWI to assist in further research into pest animal management.”

The cost of gaining regulatory approval has been high for the investors in this project, including the national government. The only way to see return on this, is for them to sell as many baits as they can. 

Obviously, selling what is a comparatively expensive competitor to 1080 isn’t easy, and until legislation passes which sees 1080 off the market, they need to create new customers for their wonder-bait.

Enter Curiosity®. 

The methodical demonisation of cats by the government over the last 12 months isn’t an accident. It’s a marketing strategy.

(It's not even particularly sophisticated strategy, but marketing 101 - convince them they have a problem; sell them the solution).

Now that PAPP baits are on the market for dogs and foxes, it is only a small jump past regulators to expand the range to cats. And the market for cat baits is genuinely enormous.

While 1080 is sold almost exclusively to farmers, Curiosity will be able to be sold to every local council who doesn’t want to invest in more humane methods of animal control. In fact our government is already recruiting:

“I’m writing to all 563 Australian local councils seeking their support to humanely address feral cat impacts” ~ Gregory Andrews

And what are our cat “welfare” groups doing in response?

Well, if they're doing anything at all, they're mostly helping the cat killers.

By advocating for 24hr cat confinement legislation, Curiosity will be able to be dispatched liberally, and with little concern for accidentally culled pets.

If you pet escapes and is poisoned, or if you live on a “peri-urban” fringe and your pet takes a bait from a roadside or park, then YOU are to blame for not being a ‘responsible’ pet owner. Cat management will be able to be done from, as Mr Andrews predicts, “... off the backs of Toyota LandCruisers.”

Animal Control Technologies (Australia) (ACTA) exist to make profits manufacturing poisons. Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) exists to make profits off sheep. Now they have a major financial investment in also spruiking animal poison. And the Australian government (Invasive Animals CRC) now also have a financial share in this new animal poison AND the ability and resources to expand legislation to further its use.

They don’t really care who this new poison kills - just as long as they get a return on their millions of dollars of R&D.

And those who SHOULD be advocating for the protection of cats?

Well, major cat welfare groups are either silent, or complicit. Shame on them.

See ongoing updates on the poison's progress here: Article #2

References and background on Curiosity cat bait

Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA)
“The reconsideration of registrations of products containing sodium fluoroacetate” 2008

Funding to protect the nation's flock and wildlife

Environment and Communications Legislation Committee (04/03/2016)

PAPP antidote story was oversold: Manufacturer

Re-positioning of the PAPP antidote

Para-aminopropiophenone - Public Release Summary

Field efficacy of the Curiosity® bait for management of a feral cat population at Roxby Downs, South Australia.

Cat poison name slammed by celebrity vet Dr Harry (& the RSPCA)

“As to the name given to this particular substance, I find it somewhat offensive. As a cat breeder for over 25 years I consider myself to be thoroughly responsible in the management of my cats and the use of such a derogatory name I find to be ill conceived, ill humoured and in a word, sick.”

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