The introduced species that is threatening New Zealand's unique delicate native environment
It is a fact that the exotic introduced species of Australian Brushtail Possum is a major ecological threat in New Zealand.
By investing in a possum fur product you are contributing to the survival and regeneration of the unique native New Zealand forest, birds and insect species, many of whom are now threatened by extinction.
Because of its long isolation from the rest of the world, New Zealand has extraordinary and unique flora and fauna. About 80% of New Zealand's flora is endemic, meaning that it is found only in New Zealand. Many of our native birds have become flightless leaving them vulnerable to introduced predators. The possum has no natural predators in New Zealand to keep their numbers down naturally like they do in their native Australia. Unchecked they continue to breed and numbers are escalating out of control every year.
Some New Zealand broad leaf tree species are absolute delicacies for possums - and these same species are also some of the countries most endangered. Possums will seek out their favourite food ahead of other species and eat them out to extinction – stripping entire trees bare of leaves so that they die. This leads to competition for food with native forest birds, changes in forest composition and eventually causes forest canopy collapse.
Photo of native forest with trees killed by possums from the Department of Conservation.It was recently discovered that the supposedly vegetarian possum also eats native birds' eggs, baby chicks and native insects. So, as well as destroying our native birds' habitat and food sources, they prey on eggs and chicks of native New Zealand bird species like the Tui, Kereru, and the endangered Kokako . The predation of bird eggs and chicks has led them to be referred to as "reluctant folivores", meaning that they eat foliage to survive but prefer other foods in their diet as well.
Westland care research project - video about stoats and possums killing native bird chicks.
Keulemans, John Gerrard, 1842-1912 :Kokako. [Between 1899 and 1906?]. Reference number: D-033-004. Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.
It is estimated that there are approximately 70-80 million possums in New Zealand, and they devour nearly 8 million tonnes of vegetation annually. The New Zealand Department of Conservation and National Possum Control Agencies are trying to keep possum numbers under control by declaring possums a pest and encouraging their eradication.
Possums are not hunted specifically for their fur; the fur is a by-product of the huge effort to save the New Zealand environment and native species. The New Zealand Government spends eighty million dollars a year on possum control. Most possums killed by the New Zealand Government using poison are left in the bush to rot and this natural resource is wasted.
Possums are known carriers of bovine tuberculosis, which provides a major threat to the New Zealand dairy, beef and deer farming industries. Over the last five years, possum control programmes have been the main driver of a 60% reduction in Tb levels in New Zealand's cattle and deer herds.
A company once tried to use possum meat to make cat and dog food (sourced from poison and Tb free areas) but it was not economically viable, and in general they are not currently eaten by people in New Zealand. You will probably not find it on a restaurant menu. Some possum meat sourced from strictly controlled areas has been exported to Taiwan, Hong Kong and Malaysia where it is known as the delicacy 'Kiwi Bear'. The laws controlling the use of possum meat have recently been changed, although they are still subject to strict conditions.
Please view this delightful series of educational videos produced by Television New Zealand and the Department of Conservation.