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The Australian New Zealanders love to hate

August 27, 2010

Despite the ongoing friendly jabs that occur between New Zealanders and Australians, and I’m saying friendly because it is (Kiwis don’t stick their national flag all over their luggage as an identity statement), there is one Australian darling New Zealanders despise with intensity.

It may be small in stature, it may project a sense of vulnerability to those uninformed, but on New Zealand soil this cutesy furry creature has caused harm with a capital H.

Meet the humble brush tail possum, a protected native to Australia, found in Sulawesi and Papua New Guinea, a destroyer of native wildlife and bush in New Zealand, and coveted by trappers and furriers for luxury clothing lines.

via Middle River

Unlike the American possum, these darling little critters fare much better in appearance and fur. Tree huggers they are not, possums spend most of their time in the canopy munching on young green shoots supplementing their diet with yummy tasting crunchy eggs of native birds, fruits from native bushes and shrubs, basically whatever they sink their teeth into.

How did these land loving animals make it to New Zealand? Early European settlers felt the need to develop a fur industry in the country since there weren’t any native animals around. What these great visionaries didn’t consider was that the country also lacked natural predators. New Zealand became the perfect environment for breeding en masse, New Zealand was to the possum, Utopia.

In the 1970’s possums numbered around 70 million, these days the numbers have been halved due to the growth of a local fur industry which produces woollen and fur products for the domestic and international market. Known as eco-fur the industry has the support from the New Zealand Conservation Department plus the World Wildlife Fund as well as 99.9% of New Zealanders, but little in the way of support from foreign visitors.

Tourists tend to side with the possum, as all good animal lovers do and why wouldn’t they? These creatures are cute, soft and have big moon-like eyes and just look so adorable. They are like little stress relievers just to watch. But like any visitor that has outstayed their welcome, possums are messy, noisy, and destructive.

via TB Free NZ

I haven’t decided whether I support the possum fur industry or not. I’ve seen the destruction by these animals but I’ve also seen the extreme measures taken to eradicate them — poison pellets, sprays, traps. I do have a pair of possum wool gloves, some of the warmest gloves around. How humane can culling a pest be particularly when it is an introduced species?  Every country has issues with introduced species I guess. What are some pest problems you have in your area/country?

Caffeinated Traveller

P.S  Head over to Laura @ TraveloCafe for a post I wrote on Xi’an’s ethnic Hui. Thanks Laura!

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10 Comments
  1. travelforaircraft permalink
    August 27, 2010 4:47 pm

    It’s unfortunate that mistakes of the past have to be corrected by what are distasteful methods … but if the non native possums do not go then the native ecosystem is irrepairably harmed. What is the mature decision? The correct one is as inescapable as it is brutal.

    Which brings me to “animal lovers”. Not the professionals, who are too few, but the amateurs, who are too many. These amateurs are as dangerous as invading species with their offering of easy (and often non nutritous) food. These make predators and scavengers unafraid of humans and they often must be “destroyed” for then attacking humans. The amateurs are to blame … but not around to see the consequences … instead they go home pleased with their stories of feeding cute possums and cudly bears. They may as well lace their food offerings with arsenic yet they happily sleep.

    It is just better to observe, take photos, leave footprints, make drawings … then leave … that will be the most humane behaviour and leave something for future generations.

    • August 30, 2010 12:16 pm

      Very good food for thought here. Animals versus flora both need to survive but at the end of the day it really should be the native species that thrives. There are too many passionate players out there who want it all, but lack the in-depth knowledge and foresight to work with the experts in producing a sustainable plan.

  2. August 27, 2010 6:07 pm

    But they look so cute… How can they do any harm at all? Misleading appearances…

    • August 30, 2010 12:12 pm

      I know!!! Cute is deceiving, like people — and children.

  3. August 28, 2010 7:10 pm

    Ferocious little suckers. It’s terrible what they’re doing to the bush in NZ. I think our camper van helped rid the country of a few of them while we were there. Apparently, we were not the only ones because roadkill was a plenty.

    • August 30, 2010 12:12 pm

      They get dazzled by the lights and don’t move making it an easy target for drivers. I also think some drivers go after them as well.

  4. August 28, 2010 11:24 pm

    Well… the saying is true, then. Do not judge a book by its cover. (lol) They may look so cute but I would never want to encounter one of them. I would rather not take chance to get bitten by these animals.

    • August 30, 2010 12:11 pm

      I agree. People used to keep them as pets.Beautiful coats of fur but sharp claws and teeth!

  5. August 30, 2010 11:43 am

    It seems like every island has its imported species issues. I can’t remember what species the chicken was supposed to manage on Bermuda, but I know that feral chickens soon became a bigger issue than the original one!

    • August 30, 2010 12:10 pm

      Can you tell the differences between these chickens, I never can, they all look the same. Actually I think NZ has some feral chickens as well. Sounds odd when you think about it feral not free range.

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