Monday, April 05, 2004

Sally's possum dinner

my suspicions that Kiwis are crazy were reinforced when I picked up a can of dog food at Pet Lovers' the other day. After inventing the bungee, zorb sphere and dwarf tossing, they also came up with possum in a can. It was touted as an organic dog food, both hypoallergenic and rich in Omega 3 & 6 fatty acids with possum as the main ingredient.

before you condemn the kiwis as barbaric butchers of those cute doe-eyed furry animals, the possum is an alien invader that has caused an ecological and conservation disaster in New Zealand. The common brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula) is a nocturnal and omnivorous marsupial, originally from Australia. It was released into NZ in 1837 and managed to spread throughout NZ within 140 years. Without any natural predators, the marsupials soon multiplied like rabbits. current population estimates ranged from 70 to 90 million. all these hungry mouths chewed up about 21,000 tons of native vegetation every night. over 100 species of NZ's native flora such as rata, rewarewa, kohekohe, kamahi were devoured by possums and many of NZ's native endemic animal species (like the giant weta, takahe, kiwi, tuatara) are eaten out of their house and home.

Apart from spending NZ$50 million to control the possum population and conduct research, the creative and enterprising kiwis had devised various ways to make the possums pay for their damage. Many websites are selling possum fur products, ranging from fur pelts to sweaters, scarfs and caps. One of RMBR's (then ZRC) earliest education aid was a possum fur pelt donated by zoology postgrad Cheryl Tan from her NZ vacation. Since most of museum's mammal specimens were for research purposes and poisoned with arsenic as a preservative, the soft possum fur was something that visitors can touch and handle.

Apart from turning possums into fashion statements, another way to reduce their numbers is to eat them. Kiwis have tried to market possum as game meat. One possum dish created was "Road Kill Pizza" (bleeaah...). Apparently, possum meat can be BBQed or cooked in a curry (mmmm....).

Another money-making venture was dog food! well, Sally sampled some possum tonight. I think she approved since she licked her food bowl clean! In fact, the concoction smelled delicious after being microwaved and looked exactly like Bolognaise pasta sauce. Sally the ecologically friendly dog has done her small part in preserving NZ's middle earth landscape by doing what she does best: wolfing down her dinner...


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