New Zealand's native and threatened flightless birds - the Great Spotted Kiwi or Roroa (Apteryx haastii), the North Island Brown Kiwi, the Okarito Brown Kiwi or Rowi and the Haast Tokoeka (Apteryx australis) are not about to be culled for down for sleeping bag export.
The much very smaller Little Spotted Kiwi (Apteryx owenii) has become locally extinct on the New Zealand mainland due to decades of unchecked predation by introduced pigs, stoats and cats. Less than 1500 remain in the wild on New Zealand's Kapiti Island.
Maori value Kiwis for spiritual reasons as part of natural respect for native forests. The culling of Kiwis for their feathers would be abhorent to Maori and most colonist descendant New Zealanders, especially to the famous South Canterbury Battalion and the Hastings Rifle Volunteers, which borrowed the kiwi as their respective mascots.
No-one is suggesting that a new wildlife industry be setup to slaughter a native bird for sleeping bag down or for any other profiteering.
Yet a commercial profiteer based in Dunedin in the South Island is actively promoting culling the Australian Brushtail Possum for commercial yarn. The company is Merino Possum Consortium located at 47 Craigleith St, Dunedin, New Zealand. It's website is at www.possumnz.com
No such profiteer exists in Australia either for possum fur or kiwi down.
Merino Possum Consortium justification for what it does reads as follows:
Supreme Possum Merino "Nature's Wonder"
Supreme Possum Merino Yarn
"Supreme Possum Merino’s unique New Zealand yarn provides garments that are light, soft and very warm. It has taken 7 years of research to perfect the process of blending Merino wool with possum fur.
The possum fur is hollow and, when spun with merino wool, produces a hardwearing yarn with superior heat retaining qualities. And while other similar fibres contain only 15 - 30% possum fibre, Supreme Possum Merino yarn has a 40% fur content.
In knitwear, possum fur, unlike angora, resists pilling and is a lot fluffier. Has minimal or no skin irritation.
Supreme Possum Merino yarn structure and attributes remain intact because the possum fur is painstakingly hand-plucked - machine plucking breaks down the hollow fibres, resulting in a fibre with less quality and length.
The combination of possum fibre with merino wool followed research in the 1990s and a possum fur market that had been in decline.
Possum – National Pest (justification)
Introduced one hundred and fifty years ago to provide the basis of a New Zealand fur industry and declared a national pest in 1936; possums now inhabit all areas of native forest where they cause extensive damage.
Key Justification: Purchase of Supreme Possum Merino yarn is another step in the conservation of New Zealand, as 5% of every sale goes into the preservation of New Zealand environment.
The company offers the following justification for its commercial culling for yarn programme:
"The brushtail possum is an introduced species released in NZ in 1837 to establish a fur industry.
As demand for fur fell and its value dropped to uneconomic levels the numbers of possums dramatically increased. They have now reached epidemic proportions with well over 70 million possums munching their way through 21,300 tonnes of vegetation nightly, decimating New Zealand's native bush and birdlife.
With no predators, New Zealand's bush is defenceless against possums. Possums are a serious threat that has spread to 92% of New Zealand's three main islands and, with their habitat destroyed by the possum, many native trees, plants and birdlife, including the kiwi, are under threat of extinction.
The only way that we can get the possum numbers down to manageable levels is by marketing possum products worldwide and getting people who care about the environment to purchase these products. Only then, will it become financially viable for hunters to trap the possum, reduce their numbers, and help save New Zealand's environment.
NZ possum fur blended with merino is luxurious, warm & soft, anti static and a luxury that nearly everyone can afford. By purchasing our products not only are you helping to protect our environment, you are also buying a truly versatile and extremely warm natural fibre that will last years.
[Author's comment: a superior aim ought to be to humanely remove all possums from New Zealand. Profiteering from animal slaughter is immoral. If Merino Possum Consortium is ecologically genuine, I challenge it to post NZ Dept of Conservation [DOC] assessments of the company's possum control activities on a quarterly basis. I also challenge Merino Possum Consortium to post its annual financial results on its website to reveal the true extent of how the business owners are financially benefiting from slaughtering these animals.
But let's consider a different perspective and ask New Zealanders and Maori if they would accept such treatment of their Kiwi birds. It is no different.
Questioning Ethical Fur - by Animal Liberation
"So it seems that possum fur has been labeled as the 'ethical fur' for the animal welfare and environmentally aware consumer. However, there is no such thing as ethical fur and Auckland Animal Action is in firm opposition to the possum fur trade. To enable the trade to remain profitable, it will have to rely on continued possum numbers and as such has no conservation value. To wear a dead animal's skin is disrespectful to the animal. Many people consider criminals to be 'bad' yet we do not shoot them and wear their skins. The promotion of possum fur will also lead to demand for other factory farmed furs, and in the worst case, could lead to the introduction of possum factory farming. To be ethical, do not wear fur. To kill for ones own vanity is disgusting and unnecessary in today's world.
IMPACT OF POSSUMS - A RURAL LEGEND!
The myth of possums destroying our environment is one that fashion designers often refer to in order to back up their bloody trade. However, MAF has admitted the actual number of possums in NZ is about 1/3 of what is sometimes claimed. If we were to destroy the creatures most responsible for the destruction of our native forests, we should look no further than ourselves. New Zealanders taste for meat has left most of our land barren and razed for intensive and unnecessary farming. If these people are serious about saving our forests they should go vegan right away!
Possums eat about 21,000 tonnes of vegetation per day (300 g wet weight per possum x 70 million possums). This oft-quoted figure is frequently used to depict possum as a rapacious consumer of all things green, but that implication ignores the daily foliage production of perhaps 300,000 tonnes for forests alone (7.5 million ha x 15 tonnes wet weight of foliage/ha/yr).
These rough calculations are backed up by a study at Waihaha, West Taupo, which showed that possums there ate only a small percentage ( [Source - Landcare Research NZ]
THE FUR INDUSTRYS' SICK SECRET REVEALED!
Brushtail possums were among the earliest animals introduced into New Zealand by European settlers. They were first brought from Australia in 1837 to establish a fur industry.
By 1922, 36 batches of possums had been imported, mostly from Tasmania where possums were larger and had the black fur preferred by furriers. These possums and their descendants were liberated at more than 450 places around New Zealand by 1930. [Source - Landcare Research NZ]
Possums were brought to New Zealand over a century ago in the hopes of introducing a bloody fur trade. The fur trade itself is responsible for bringing the possums here. How can we expect this industry to treat its own mistakes with care and ethics?!
It is our responsibility to treat these animals fairly and humanely. No animal is a 'pest'. It is humans alone that categorise animals such, reflecting our anthropocentric philosophies. Possums can feel just as much pain as a dog or a cat. They are highly social animals and loving parents.
It is our own fault possums are here in the first place therefore it is our duty to possums to find ways of controlling their numbers that are humane. Barbaric hunting and trapping, is not the answer, not to mention the horrendous 1080, which is a bigger problem to our natural environment than the possums themselves!
1080 completely dehydrates all the cells in the body. 1080 causes convulsions, internal bleeding and continual vomiting. It is simply a long painful inhumane death.
Leg hold traps cause immense pain and trauma to possums caught in them again the animal can suffer a slow languishing death. Such traps are indiscriminate and often catch non-target animals. Kiwis have been reported as caught in traps meant for possums!
In the 1980's several experimental intensive possum fur and meat farms were set up. All failed as the possums experienced high mortality rates due to stress at confinement. Why were such farms ever attempted when our bush land is apparently over-run with possums?
SUMMARY OF OUR CASE AGAINST THE POSSUM FUR TRADE
The damage possums are causing to Native bush is overstated, as are their numbers. Possums were brought to NZ by humans in the hopes of making money from their fur.
Perpetuating an industry that relies on slaughtering introduced animals is not going to solve the introduced animal problem. If anything, profiteering and building a market for pssum fur will only perpetuate the problem.
It is defeatist and convenient for the New Zealand government to proclaim 'the possum will never be eradicated in New Zealand'. What a easy cop out! And what will that management avoidance strategy do to the New Zealand natural environment? The NZ government approach to possum control is to apply 1080 poison in the wild and spends $80 million p.a. of taxpayers money in the process. The 1080 poison is banned in many first world countries because it causes a cruel agonising death. The New Zealand Government is unethical in using it.
What about controls on introduced stoats and weasels that are a serious predation threat to indigenous Kiwi birds?
TIGERQUOLL RECOMMENDATION: Repatriate all possums safely back to Australia.
New Zealand colonists owe the Maoris and New Zealand itself 170 odd years of introducing animals like the Australia native Brushtailed possum, rabbits, stoats and weasels into the New Zealand wild for misguided reasons and its subsequent breeding and environmental damage. The introduction (or species invasion) was not by the possum, but by New Zealand colonists.
The full cost of recovery and rehabilitation and redress for the 172 years of environment damage caused to New Zealand and its flora and fauna, ethically must be borne jointly by the Australian and New Zealand governments. Colonial crimes against the environment must be brought to account.
If it costs a billion dollars to repatriate possums out of New Zealand back to Australia so be it. May be Australia's Prime Minister Kevin Rudd will realise that he is squandering Australian taxpayer money on his pet personal projects that Australia can't afford, such as his splurging of $750 million topping up F35 joint strike fighter extravagance to appease US-Australian political agenda. May be New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key will stop wasting $1.5 billion on duplicating a regional fibre-to-the-home broadband plan.
The problem is not one of resources in either country; it is one of lack of political will and skewed priorities.
MES (not verified)
Mon, 2009-11-30 04:15
There are other suppliers as well!
Mon, 2009-11-30 16:01
Questioning morality of a fur trade and disingenuous greenwash
MES is correct that it is not the only trader of possum fur, but MES it is very prominent in its online marketing which makes it stand out. MES website portrays an image of doing a good thing for the New Zealand natural environment, which I criticise as disingenuous greenwash.
The purpose of the article is not to target any one fur trader, but to question the merits of this fur trade being marketed as an eco-sustainable solution. It is to highlight the problem of Australian possums in New Zealand - an historical problem, long dismissed by New Zealand authorities as one for the too hard basket. It is to highlight the immoral perpetuation of a fur trade in native animals (acknowledging they are not native to New Zealand, but introduced by New Zealanders). They still remain Australian native animals.
It is to challenge the trade as a disingenous attempt to promote the industrial trade as a noble worthy environmental cause promoting glamorious exclusive garments out of Australian native amimals. It is to highlight the lack of independently supported evidence that the possum fur trade is actually addressing the population of possums in NZ in an humane manner and is actually effective to any serious extent - or is it really just perpetuating the trade for profit? If the trade is effective it should have a timeline for when the possum population can be confirmed to be eliminated from both South and North Islands. It is to question the long held defeatist view of the New Zealand Department of Conservation [DOC] that the introduced possum problem in New Zealand is unsolvable, despite DOC spending $80 million a year in cruel 1080 baiting.
A quick online search reveals other traders not just based in New Zealand. MerinoSnug is an Australian trader of possum products - Australian based yet claiming to source possums from New Zealand, which sounds doubtful.
* Nichols NZ
* Basically Bush
* Merino Snug
* Snowy Peak
...amongst others no doubt.
This issue is important for New Zealand ecology and for the possums themselves and warrants public debate across the Tasman. What about the introduced weasels and stoats? Are these having a more serious adverse impact on NZ native fauna?
The issue of introduced animals is one of systemic government problem avoidance. The issue of culling is also just as serious. Readers may have noted on this blog that I hold similar condemnation for Australians poaching kangaroos in Australia. I am being wholly consistent. Native animals belong in their native homes and deserve to be treated with respect.
Terry (not verified)
Wed, 2009-12-02 01:34
Approves of possum culling?
Wed, 2009-12-02 16:42
With ethics like Terry's he should see 'Van Diemens Land'
Odds are we have another Kiwi/and or a Shooters Party member in our Terry.
I recommend Terry takes the kids to see the film
Van Diemens Land - should suit his ethics.
Terry (not verified)
Wed, 2009-12-02 23:26
Anonymous (not verified)
Mon, 2010-04-12 20:42
Possum culling in NZ
Tue, 2010-04-13 10:21
NZ's exploitative perpetuation of the 19th Century fur trade
Our anonymous contributor has a simplistic superficial view of possum slaughter in New Zealand.
Yes, the brush tail possum is an introduced species in New Zealand, introduced by colonial New Zealanders in the 19th Century to establish a fur trade.
Yes, the possum has been allowed to grow to pest proportions due to lack of natural predators, ineffectual controls and removal by NZ authorities, and by an immoral backyard fur industry that simply 'manages' the possum numbers to ensure a viable ongoing fur trade. New Zealanders are not systematically removing the possum from New Zealand in a humane way. They are only perpetuating an immoral fur trade and profiting from it like they did in the 19th Century. Such practice keeps New Zealand a backward nation.
Finding a 'use' for Australian wildlife is immoral. It is the same as finding a 'use' for the Kiwi or Kea.
It is just like killing kiwi's for down or killing kangaroos or possums in Australia. It is killing wild animals for commercial gain. It is not culling pest species humanely to remove them altogether. If it were, there may be a moral argument.
Killing kangaroos for commercial gain (meat, skins, fertilizer) is the same as killing tigers for commerical gain, just like backward Chinese are prepared to pay for to get a traditional cultural hard on.
The tired argument that it is better to kill native animals than to continue killing livestock is a slippery slope - 'Non Causa Pro Causa'. That is, if killing livestock is acceptable, then by a gradual series of small steps to killing possums, kangaroos, elephants, tigers, platypus, dolphins, kiwis, kakapo parrots, takahes, koalas, giant pandas, is by extension acceptable too? It is an fallacious argument. They used to shoot Aborigines in Australia too you know.
Yes, Australian colonists and subsequent settlers have wiped out 75% of Australia's native flora and fauna to establish an agricultural industry and lifestyle - crops and livestock. Lamb and beef continue to be bred for domestic consumption and export. It was wrong and the ethics of the landscape destruction are an historic problem. But the issue of livestock damage is introducing a completely distinct problem.
This is a diversionary tactic to change the subject. So how do we address the lamb and beef damage and the demand for this lamb and beef and the jobs they provide? "Cultural clinging to introduced destructive animals for food" is one problem. Offer solutions without shifting the problem to one of wildlife slaughter.
The problem of possum slaughter in New Zealand is the focus of the above article. Isn't the challenge to remove the possum from New Zealand effectively and humanely. As far as I can tell, the New Zealand Government has given up - bit like NZ in the cricket - no stamina.
Both New Zealand and Australia's last remaining natural places are increasingly under threat. To exacerbate that threat by encouraging wildlife slaughter for commercial gain is a quantum leap of immoral and backward butchery. Wildlife slaughter in the 21st Century is one of obsolute choice. It is an extreme leisure pursuit by sadists. It is like Australian poacher Robert Borsak flying off to Zimbabwe last year to shoot African elephants. It is a sick personal fetish.
New Zealand's magnificent giant moa was once prolific and so slaughtered by Maoris to extinction. Extinction is worse than the holocaust or genocide. While millions of humans were slaughtered by the Nazis, and Hutus in Rwanda at least humans are not at risk of extinction. But there are no more moas.
Snowy River 3885
Anonymous (not verified)
Fri, 2010-04-16 00:27
Where did statistic of 75% flora and fauna destroyed come from?
Anonymous (not verified)
Fri, 2010-04-16 09:31
Known facts of species extinction in Australia
Fri, 2010-04-16 10:07
Australia: leading the world in land clearing and extinctions
In response to the above comment: 'Where did statistic of 75% flora and fauna destroyed come from'?
Good question. Go to the Australian Bureau of Statistics webpage
[Note: The ABS frequently changes its referencing so this link may only be temporary]
scroll down to...
A LONGER TERM VIEW
"Declines in wildlife have occurred in most parts of Australia since European colonisation. Over the past 200 years 17 mammal species are thought to have become extinct here. Fewer than 25 species are believed to have become extinct in the rest of the world over the same period, which means that Australia accounts for over 40% of the world's mammalian extinctions since 1800-10 Some other mammals, once widespread, now survive only in tiny areas (often islands free of foxes and cats); this isolation and loss of genetic diversity make species less adaptable and more vulnerable to threats such as disease.
Intensive land use, which has played a part in the decline, has been concentrated in the south and east of the country. Habitat loss, through cropping, grazing, forestry, mining and human settlements, has dramatically changed vegetation cover. The 1996 State of the Environment report assessed that since 1788:
* over 40% of forests had been cleared;
* more than 60% of coastal wetlands in southern and eastern Australia had been lost;
* about 75% of rainforests had been cleared;
* almost 90% of temperate woodlands and mallee had been cleared; and
* more than 99% of temperate lowland grasslands in south-eastern Australia had been lost.
[the net average exceeds 75% of Australia]
Wildlife has declined in northern and central Australia too, where the level of land clearing has been lower. In the arid zone, about one-third of mammal species are regionally extinct, the highest extinction rate on the Australian mainland, and many birds are declining. The extent of cattle grazing, effects of invasive species and changes to fire regimes are factors thought to have led to a decline in many animal species in these areas.
Seventeen species of mammals (and another 10 subspecies) are listed by the Commonwealth as presumed extinct in Australia since 1788. Ten of these species were last seen alive in the twentieth century, ten of these animals are marsupials, and 14 of them were found predominantly in the inland arid zone."
The following are also informative on this issue:
Facts About Land Clearing in Australia
"Land clearing is the permanent destruction of native vegetation and its replacement with agricultural, urban or other land uses.
* Australia has the fifth highest rate of land clearing in the world. We clear more bush each year than poverty-stricken countries like Burma, Mexico, Zimbabwe, Nigeria and the Congo.
* Australia clears land at the massive rate of over half a million hectares a year.
* The rate of land clearing is accelerating. As much land has been cleared in the last 50 years, as was cleared in the previous 150 years.
* Woodlands are Australia's most threatened, and least protected, wooded ecosystem.
* 85% of all land clearing in Australia happens in Queensland. Victoria has lost more native vegetation than any other state, and Tasmania has the highest clearing rate in proportion to the State's total land area.
* For every tree planted, 100 are bulldozed!"
[Source: Australian Conservation Foundation]
Australia one of worst animal destroyers
"THE earth is experiencing its sixth great extinction and Australia, along with its Pacific neighbours, is in danger of perpetuating its record as one of the worst destroyers of animal and plant species, a study by leading environmental scientists has found.
Based on a review of 24,000 scientific papers, the study published today in the journal Conservation Biology finds that land clearing and overlogging are among the greatest threats to land-based creatures and plants in the Oceania region.
Since records began, Australian agriculture has changed or destroyed half the woodlands and forests of the country. More than two-thirds of the remaining forest has been degraded by logging.
The study finds that throughout Oceania more than 1200 bird species have become extinct and climate change is threatening to worsen the crisis.
‘‘Our region has the notorious distinction of having possibly the worst extinction record on earth,’’ said Richard Kingsford, professor of environmental science at the University of NSW and one of the 14 authors of the study.
‘‘This is predicted to continue without serious changes to the way we conserve our environment,’’ he said, noting that half of Australia’s mammal extinctions were directly or indirectly caused by humans.
This year, the white lemuroid possum, which lives at high altitudes in Queensland’s tropical northern rainforest, was identified as being in extreme decline.
‘‘The lemuroid possum has shown itself to be particularly sensitive to rising temperatures and may face extinction if we cannot reverse these trends,’’ reported John Williams of James Cook University.
Some ecologists see the white possum as similar to the polar bear, a symbol of the threat posed by climate change.
The study comes as WWF raised the alarm over figures showing Australia lost 300,000 hectares to land clearing in the year to 2007, the latest available statistics. This was the equivalent of clearing about 5 million suburban house blocks, Nick Heath of WWF told the Herald.
Queensland had the worst record, clearing an area equal to the land mass of the Australian Capital Territory.
It was the last year of the state’s policy of allowing broad-scale land clearing and its record dwarfed that of the other states combined.
WWF estimated that 20 million birds, reptiles and mammals would have died as a result of the clearing.
The authors are calling on governments in Australia and the Pacific to act urgently to halt the rising extinctions. Along with land clearing, logging and climate change, the threats include exotic diseases, pollution, overfishing and the introduction of foreign plants and animals."
[Australia One of the Worst Animal Destroyers, by Marian Wilkinson, Environment Editor, 29-Jul-09]
So, there are climate deniers and no doubt, land clearing deniers and extinction deniers.
The best thing Australians could do in this International Year of Biodiversity to save our wildlife is to call for Peter Garrett's dismissal as a woeful Environment Minister and not vote either Labour or Liberal at the federal and state elections.
Meanwhile, how's the land clearing in New Zealand?
2. Native Forest Action
Snowy River 3885
Paul Templeton (not verified)
Sat, 2010-04-17 18:09
Analysis of NZ possum culling simplistic
Approximate (not verified)
Sun, 2010-04-18 03:04
Of pests and possums
Tue, 2010-04-20 11:00
New Zealand poaching of possums backward
Re: comment above 'Analysis of NZ possum culling simplistic'
There is no confusion about what backyard descendants of New Zealander colonists are doing: poaching possums for profit to perpetuate an immoral 19th Century fur trade.
Where is the confusion?
If the New Zealand Department of Conservation (DOC) was genuine, competent and not morally bankrupt it would have an effective programme of gradual humane eradication of possums from New Zealand. Traps, cruel 1080 poision (banned in many countries) and allowing mum and dad poachers to profit from possums is not a genuine attempt at pest control (despite it wasting hundreds of millions of taxpayers money every year) and clearly incompetent and morally bankrupt.
DOC calls possum poaching 'Possum fur recovery'. DOC 'supports possum fur recovery in a number of regions' and attempts to make the trade "economic." It's as bad as if introducing foxes to New Zealand so mum and dad poachers can have a fox fur trade. It's bloody lunacy!
DOC also engages in what it calls 'aerial control' - chucking 1080 poison indiscriminately out of a helicopter over forest. Nice and 'simplistic' approach to pest control! Luckily the reckless bastards don't have access to Agent Orange!
Such practice sends a message that New Zealand is a backward culture.
Yes, all feral pests should be 'controlled' in new Zealand but humanely and not to perpetuatre an immoral trade. This includes the possum, stoats, weasles, rats, goats, pigs and rabbits and deer - all the ferals introduced by human colonist ferals. I'd be pissed off if I were Maori about all this damage. And I reject your labelling of Maori as 'noble savage'. These are your words - how racist!
Has NZ asked Australia for assistance to help with pest control?
You claim removing feral animals from N.Z is "naive" and "not possible". Whate has the NZ Government done and why is it failing, yet still wasting money?
Why not repatriate the possums back to Australia - at New Zealand's expense of course - since it was NZ colonists that put em there in the first place? New Zealanders can keep their apples out of Australia by the way - no more exotic species across the Tasman! Perhaps New Zealanders should leave Australia alone as well!
What I did say is true. The Maori did hunt the flightless Moa into extinction.
Check http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moa and all the references references.
Bugger the cuteness, if it is feral, control it and if possible re[patriate it to its country of origin.
Every feral animal in the wild should be removed from the wild humanely. This is the progfessional approach. Your EVERY animal is fair game approach resounds of ethnic cleansing.
Snowy River 3885
The right speci... (not verified)
Sun, 2010-04-18 09:02
Possums in NZ ... but what about koalas and rabbits in OZ?
Sun, 2010-04-18 16:04
are we the right species in the right place?
Tue, 2010-04-20 11:29
Pests are foreign indigenous invading here, i.e. 'immigration'
Aaron (not verified)
Sat, 2010-05-08 15:57
Yet another defence of NZ possum fur industry
Sun, 2010-05-09 12:11
NZ's backyard possum fur industry just skims the problem
In response to Aaron's comment above, please read my article and the comments above. I am tired of repeating myself to those who fail to read.
To reiterate, the issue is the immoral perpetuation of the NZ fur trade. By all means get rid of the possums from NZ humanely,one region at a time. The best approach is to repatriate them to Australia, their native home. But since the New Zealanders introduced them to New Zealand the cost ought to be borne by New Zealand.
Perpetuating the possum fur trade is only prolonging the immoral 19th Century fur trade and perpetuating New Zealand's possum pest problem. Bugger the emotion. Culling possums for fur is no different to culling any other animal for fur - seals, kangaroos, koalas, pandas. Possums are herbivores, whereas introduced stoats kill New Zealand wildlife, so why are New Zealanders more concerned with stoats? The reason is cultural. Kiwis have been acculturated to hating possums, because they are Australian.
Have read at what the NZ's own Department of Conservations has to say about the failure of the possum fur trade to deal with the possum problem:
"Attempts to reduce the threat of possums by government subsidy or market forces have not succeeded.
The amount of pressure applied on possum populations by the fur recovery industry, driven by the price paid for fur, usually hovers around the annual replacement rate for a healthy breeding possum population. Normal fur recovery is ‘skimming’ the population and benefits the hunter but does not reduce populations sufficiently to achieve a conservation benefit.
To measure population density, 100 traps are put out over one night and the population density of possums is expressed as the number of possums caught per 100 trap-nights. Research shows that to get any direct conservation or animal health benefit, the possum density figure must be reduced to 5 possums per 100 traps.
The viability of fur recovery operations requires a high possum density e.g. 50 possums for every 100 traps put out. Trapping continues until the catch rate drops down to about 30 possums per 100 traps. Below this point, under normal conditions it becomes uneconomic to continue trapping.
Some areas where DOC requires reduced possum populations are less accessible, more rugged, difficult to service and fur recovery is not a viable economic proposition. Fur trappers will go elsewhere to more accessible, higher density populations where there is a better return for their effort
In July 2009, the price paid for fur was $100 per kilogram. 18-20 possums are required to produce a kilogram of fur. If a trapper wishes to earn $200 per day, he must kill about 60 possums per day under ideal conditions. At low densities of possums, this requires very long trap lines and is a very difficult target to achieve.
The price offered for fur fluctuates and has been as high as $110 per kilogram but this is not sufficient incentive to increase trapping effort and trappers continue to move regularly to ‘easier’ possums.
A bounty places a value on the existence of possums. However, they are expensive to administer and an expensive technique to manage possum populations. There is no incentive to reduce pests to low numbers when each animal is increasingly harder to get.
From 1951 to 1961, a bounty equating to $15 per possum failed to control possum numbers. Most skins came from "nuisance" possums in prosperous farming and semi-urban areas, or, from possums killed on country roads, rather than from areas where possums were critically affecting agricultural production, watershed protection or natural landscape and wildlife values.
If this system was reintroduced, DOC and the Animal Health Board would need to continue with their own possum control operations in priority areas.
During the era when bounties were in existence, possum populations continued to expand in Coromandel and Northland as hunters deliberately introduced the pest to those areas in order to have a local population to "farm". This applied huge pressure on populations of kiwi in Northland where possums were absent until the introduction of the bounty.
Co-operative possum management
In the East Coast region, which produces some of the best possum fur in the North Island, DOC in association with a major fur buyer promotes fur recovery in the series of ‘blocks’ that buffer the high value protected areas.
DOC actively encourages trappers to use its hut network and reduces administration to the barest minimum to facilitate access. The fur recovery operator reduces the possum numbers to 15 possums per 100 traps laid within the blocks.
The overall percentage profit from operations is lower but the trapper is getting closer to a conservation benefit in the trapped area. The scale of the integrated block operations in this ‘buffer zone’ keeps the fur enterprise profitable.
The reduced pest population helps reduce levels of pest reinvasion into DOC’s core protected area where pest populations are driven close to zero."
Only New Zealanders seem to have this irrational hatred for possums yet don't know how to translate that hatred into effective and humane eradication. It seems this 'possum-phobia' is a transferred cultural inferiority complex many New Zealanders have with their big Australian neighbour. New Zealanders seem to have a penchant for possum bashing, like Fairfax journalist Elizabeth Farrelly. The bizarre thing is that many New Zealanders end up migrating to Australia and bring this irrational complex with them.
Are you another New Zealander in Australia Aaron by any chance?
NB. I am please to say I live in an area where both ring tail and brushtails are native and so I have a possum box under the eves of my house and a family of possums.
Snowy River 3885
Anonymous (not verified)
Sun, 2010-05-09 17:31
How Australian possums harm the New Zealnd's ecology
Mon, 2010-05-10 10:19
Kiwi pest control one of self-interest, not NZ ecology
Michael (not verified)
Thu, 2010-05-13 20:52
Fri, 2010-05-14 10:28
Kiwis' ecological problem avoidance is chronic
Possum1 (not verified)
Wed, 2012-01-25 22:50
Turning a blind eye to cruelty
Possum2 (not verified)
Mon, 2012-10-29 19:53
Turning a blind eye to cruelty
jason (not verified)
Sun, 2010-06-13 20:23