Tuesday, January 02, 2007
Today the ISW adds a new entry to the "make lemons from lemonade" section of invasive species management: entrepreneurs in New Zealand making fur products out of the invasive brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula). The possums, introduced from Australia back in the 1800s, are now so numerous on New Zealand that "designers who use their fur are seen as national heroes" (hah!).
The full story is in The Independent. It's worth a read just to laugh at the thought of fashionistas using possum fur as a substitute for polar bear fur (!!) and wearing lime green possum fur bikinis and other unmentionables (NSFW link here if you must see). I guess it's better than the broad-spectrum poisons sometime employed to control the animals, but let's be real: it's called the fur industry for a reason. The majority of designers are doing this to make money, not to eradicate the possums...even if they are calling it "eco fur." Note also this article (.pdf) in an ecological journal from 1982, recognizing the risk of "crashing the market" by overharvesting and hypothesizing about maintaining a sustainable harvest.
Thanks to biosparite for sending in a link to the article, and to monopolist for coming up with the title.
Labels: mammals, New Zealand, possums
The indigenous vegetation is more robust in Africa and Australia and it is found all over the place in uncultivated areas and along the roadsides whereas here it has disappeared completely except in very protected areas. I think New Zealand is like a child being brought up in isolation and then being exposed to all the world's illnesses. It is an ideal place to be invaded by anything that arrives here uninvited. We are all immigrants. There are forty million possoms destroying what is left of the forests. Rabbits destroy the pastures and cause erosion with their burrows. Deer have invaded the forests eating at the undergrowth. Rats, stouts, cats and weasles have played havoc with the few indigenous flightless birds like the Kiwi. Thistles, broom and numerous other plants have come to stay, magpies, Indian mynas, blackbirds and sparrows are the most common birds and find New Zealand a most desirable place to live, as do we all,sheep included. Already a hundred and fifty years ago Charles Darwin emphasised this when he said that the extinction of so very many of New Zealands native plants and animals was brought about when alien species of plants and animals brought in by the settlers, successfully established themselves and outcompeted the natives. Using GE to control pests like possoms and other invaders and plant pests might in the end be the most satisfactory method. But humans have managed to do all this to New Zealand, good and bad.
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