1 EAGLETON NOTES: An Unusual Museum

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Wednesday, 9 March 2016

An Unusual Museum

Most museums are devoted to informing people of things to be remembered or conserved. Opossum World in Napier is probably the only Museum in the world currently devoted to the extermination of a living creature: in this case the Opossum.

Its slogan is: Save a New Zealand tree. Buy Opossum fur products.


The imported Australian Opossum which was estimated (in 2008 when I last posted on the subject) to number 70 million in New Zealand eats an estimated 21 tonnes of foliage (mainly the young branch shoots of trees) each night - New Zealand's ecological nightmare.


25 comments:

  1. Is that 21 tonnes of leaves each? They must be massive. Here we are worrying about the odd deer.

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    1. Yes, Adrian, thay would be massive if that were the case.

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  2. So... did you buy an opossum fur coat to take home to the Hebrides? ;)

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    1. Monica even an opossum wool jacket costs hundreds of dollars. Not that I'd wear a fur coat but I hate to think what it would cost - and weigh!

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    2. I did suspect you would not really want one, Graham... ;)

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  3. Is the opossum native to New Zealand or was it brought in from the outside like the hated rabbit of Australia?

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    1. Mrs Thyme the Australian Opossum or phalanger (Trichosurus vulpecula) was first liberated at Riverton, Southland (NZ), in 1858 with the idea of starting a skin trade. Since then innumerable recorded and unrecorded liberations have been made all over New Zealand, in Stewart Island and the Chatham Islands and in the outlying islands. There are now few areas without opossums, exceptions being the high country and northern Northland. There were at first very few complaints, but as opossums became established and increased in numbers and distribution they came to cause trouble, especially when combined with other animals, in native and man-made forests, in orchards and gardens, and in catchment areas. Admittedly hundreds of thousands of skins were exported each year, but on balance it appears that the harmful effect of opossums outweighed the profits from the sale of skins. One of NZ's main trades now is wood and it's those forests that are ravaged.

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  4. Rather sad that well meaning people brought these rascals to New Zealand.

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    1. Yes Red it's amazing what people did without any thoughts of the consequences - and people are still doing such things with even greater consequences for the planet and those who live here.

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  5. Just goes to show once more how easily the ecological balance of a place is upset when humans interfere without thinking of the long-term consequences.

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    1. Meike I think one of today's problems is worse: we think about the problems (eg global warming) and still carry on regardless.

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  6. Oh, dear! Perhaps we should send over some wombats...the wombats just eat roots and leaves. ;)

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    1. Well Lee wombats don't multiply quite as rapidly either.

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  7. I could cry for New Zealand. I really could. A Garden of Eden lost because of the stupidity of mankind. Even the Maori brought the Polynesian rat there. I am afraid that the worthy charity in Napier is seeking to shut the stable door long after the horse (or brush-tailed possum) has bolted but good luck to them. You should seriously consider having a suit tailored from possum fur - perfect for Eagleton winters.

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    1. Yes YP New Zealand is a wonderful place despite all the introduced alien species. In fact so much of the indigenous fauna had been destroyed by the time Europeans discovered the land that it would be interesting to extrapolate the land's 'progress' if it had not been 'discovered'.

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  8. Well in Australua I have only heard them called possums - and ruder things as we collect them from our roof cavities and drive them to a new home (since they are protected here). Melbourne is full of people drinking possums across to each others' suburb to dump - they usually seem to beat us home. The best answer seems to be building alternative accommodation for them in a nearby tree. And acquiring a wardrobe of NZ possum jackets (I have three) which are amazingly wind proof for knitwear, and so soft and warm. Jean

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    1. That was meant to be "driving" but it might drive one to drinking too. We had one fall through a trapdoor into the bath.

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    2. Where is Australua? Never heard of it but it sounds exotic.

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    3. Jean I have no idea why the opossum is called a possum in Australia or why they are so protected on your side of the Tasman. I was perplexed, having been in Australia many years before I came here to NZ in 2005, to realise the different attitudes. I was staying with a friend a couple of years ago who had an opossum in the roof above the bedroom I was sleeping in. It was okay once it came home at 5am and settled down for the day but then I didn't have to sort the problem in the long run. Friends who have opossum knitwear are all very complimentary of its properties.

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  9. Goodness Graham, you would never guess. Richard took some photos of a possum on our deck on Friday night, it was just outside our back door! It was quite big. Would it look just like the ones you have in New Zealand? I thought it was a native to the USA, it is an opossum, really, but I think everyone here calls it possum.

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    1. Kay firstly I should say that Australians call it a possum as do most Kiwis. It would appear that the possum which is native to Australia, New Guinea, and Sulawesi (and introduced to New Zealand and China) derives its name from a resemblance to the opossums of the Americas. Although opossums are also marsupials, possums are more closely related to other Australian marsupials such as kangaroos.

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  10. They sound like a definite scourge. The museum is unique for sure.

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    1. Yes, Terra, they are in all sorts of ways.

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  11. The opossum can be put in the same boat as our destructive monkeys we have here on the island.
    We do have an animal called a mongoose (Herpestes javanicus)which was introduced to the island many years ago to help control the rat population which were posing a threat to the sugar cane industry.
    We still have the mongoose and the rats but hardly any sugar cane industry to speak of.

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    1. Virginia the unintended results of man's intended actions are so often disastrous.

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