Monday, 8 August 2011

The Brushtail Possum

Introduced into New Zealand about 150 years ago from Australia, the brushtail possum multiplied to over 70,000,000 by the 1980s. With no predators, this pest has decimated huge tracts of New Zealand native forests eating 21,000 tons of vegetation nightly. Both bird life (including the Kiwi) and many unique types of trees are threatened with extinction because of the brushtail possum. This marsupial is only very distantly related to the American Opossum.

Pic from Wiki

There are no native predators of the possum in New Zealand. There have been numerous attempts to eradicate them, because of the damage they do to native trees and wildlife, as well as acting as a carrier of bovine tuberculosis. For New Zealand, the ecologically disastrous effects of the introduction of possums can be described as similar to that of the introduction of rabbits and cane toads in Australia.

Since 1996, efforts have been made to use possum fur in clothing. A blend of Australian brush tailed possum fur with merino wool was developed by Untouched World, a New Zealand fashion label. The product is called merinomink, eco-possum, possumdown, eco fur or possum wool, and accounts for 95% of all commercially caught possum fur. Possum fur is also used for fur trim, jackets, bed throws, and possum leather gloves. All the fur is obtained from wild-caught possums, which are considered pests.

In 2009, it was announced that conservation measures (such as by the DOC) had met some significant success, and had reduced the possum numbers to less than half of the 1980s levels, a drop from around 70 million to around 30 million animals. Almost half (13.3 million hectares) of New Zealand's vegetated land is under some form of possum control, either for conservation reasons, or to reduce the spread of bovine tuberculosis.


Dot and Derek said...

Hi Maffi
Great to see someone cares. Eat at Gourmet Burger Kitchens in the UK and help those kiwis.
Happy Boating

Tom and Jan said...

I used to hunt and trap them as a boy. They taste awful but I made a few "Davy Crockett hats from their skins.
The English have a lot to answer for by also introducing, white butterfies, wasps (to kill the white butterflies) and hedgehogs. At least they didn't introduce the fox.


Allan said...

Thanks for the natral history lesson

deb said...

I remember my father trapping and gassing the nasty little things with the car exhaust. Stephen went night shooting with my ex brother-in-law once, the story goes that the possums sat laughing at him. Stephen and I use a high pressure hose to encourage them to move on and it is amazing how much the bush regenerates once you have got rid of them.

Deb (from Wellington)

Wiggins said...

Possum wool is lovely & soft & warm...

The bushies are huge things, can take on & beat large dogs, and have a party most nights on the roof above our bed. It is scary that they have turned carnivorous in NZ, as here they still mostly eat fruit.

The introduction of species to fragile ecologies such as NZ & Oz has destroyed so much. We keep our cat in & plant natives for the birds & insects, but so much needs to be protected.