Decisions made by men more than a century and a half ago led to me facing an unpleasant ethical dilemma a few days ago.
In my search for an image for the previous post, I stumbled across this photographic treasure from 1957: a possum in the care of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Knowing what we know today about the destructive impact of these furry marsupials, it is easy to dismiss this image as a quaint artefact of a misguided era.
But perhaps this caring woman knows better.
A possum is an animal worthy of the same humane treatment that any household pet deserves – it is only by virtue of being in the wrong place (through our actions) that it has become a ‘pest’ of such magnitude.
In a similar vein to my previous post about the little German owl, I found another insightful gem about possums, from the official report of the 15th national conference of acclimatisation societies in 1926:
“The Government had appointed Professor Kirk to inquire into opossums and the Forestry Department had also appointed an independent man. Both had come to the conclusion, namely, that opossums did no damage to Native trees. [The President] knew himself that the boards looking after certain scenic reserves had been able to obtain quite a large revenue from the opossums,* and had been thus able to fence the reserves, so that in that way the opossums were doing good in the bush.” Continue reading
Even this little fellow, still not fully grown, would wreak havoc on vegetables and fruit trees, and in an indigenous forest environment, shrubs, trees, bird young and eggs.
Nga Manu Images is an online photo library created by Dave Mudge and Peter McKenzie, founder trustees of Nga Manu Trust, a charitable trust dedicated to the conservation of New Zealand’s flora and fauna, and conservation education. The Trust founded the Nga Manu Nature Reserve, just north of Waikanae on the Kapiti Coast, featured on this website. What makes this photo repository so unique is that, in keeping with the Trust’s objectives, these images are available free of charge for conservation advocacy and education purposes, as well as non-commercial personal use.
Many of the images on this site are part of a more than three decade-long project to develop a pictorial record of the ecology of Nga Manu Nature Reserve, recording the plants and wildlife and the way they interact. Continue reading
In 1870, Kapiti was identified by naturalists as a possible site for a bird sanctuary. But it was over a quarter of a century before the Kapiti Island Public Reserve Act (1897) was passed, and the island became a reserve.
Remnant forest, scrubland and previously farmed land was left to regenerate (except for one remaining farm at Waiorua, which continued to be farmed until the 1950s). However, nothing was done to eradicate the introduced species – cattle, goats, sheep, and possums (which had been introduced in 1893 – only four years before Kapiti became a reserve), and these animals kept regeneration of the forest in check through their constant browsing. Continue reading
The earlier post on Hunting in New Zealand prompted one of our regular contributors, Paul Knight (now 74), to reminisce about his own hunting days:
When I was a child, my father used to take me fishing in Whangaroa Harbour and hunting for rabbits and hares, ducks and swans. By my early teens I had graduated to hunting deer. The purpose of both the fishing and the hunting was to keep an old freezer stocked for the family of 6. By the time I was a university student in the 1950s, I went hunting for deer by myself, traveling by motorbike with sidecar (Triumph 500 Speed Twin), mostly to Minginui Forest, west of Te Urewera National Park.
Hunting at Minginui was always successful. There was no need to get up at dawn. Even in the middle of the day you could creep up on clearings in the kanuka scrub or forest with a good chance of finding a herd of anything up to about 20 deer resting in the sun. They would make off in panic and not infrequently ran straight at me in the confusion. Continue reading
Possums are now estimated to number 70 million in New Zealand, and are acknowledged as a pest that inflicts colossal damage on New Zealand’s indigenous flora and fauna. However, only 100 years ago, they were highly valued and strictly protected.
Possums were introduced to New Zealand with the intention of establishing a fur trade. They were first released in the 1830s, but initially failed to become established. Imports began to taper off after 1900, and until the late 1930s, they were periodically protected as imported game – it was illegal to trap or kill them. As David Young notes, they were regarded by the government as “furry money-spinners” well into the third decade of the 20th century. Continue reading