O, Possum

Alright, so I’ve been getting questions about the possums. I feel the need to clarify that we are not talking about that rat-faced, pink-tailed, dead-acting Opossum of North America. (Sorry too disappoint those among you who were reveling in the idea of kiwis walking around in barbaric ragged, gray fur capes fringed with bare tails swinging…)

Turns out these little brushtail possumsĀ  are reasonably cute.

Unfortunately they are also hideously invasive, procreationaly gifted, night-stalking, tree-killing, diabolical bird-murderers. These crimes and others have landed them the dubious title of Public Enemy No. 1, although stoats are a close second. Both species are destroying the native flora and fauna, taking an especially heavy toll on the beloved flightless birds, like kiwis and keas, by eating their eggs and chicks.

New Zealanders are quick to bitch about these fuzzy pests (first introduced by settlers to start up a fur trade, go figure, they are often called “squash-ums”). They trap and kill them with chilling enthusiasm. Traps are everywhere, poison is dropped from the skies into certain areas…water is poisoned… The DOC says this warpath has reduced the estimated population from over 70 million to around 30 million over the last two decades. Well that is promising… Only 30 million to go, boys! Maybe the government should think about introducing some predatory cane toads next. Teach them to hunt possum. With small spears. Brilliant.

But in typical kiwi do-it-yourself fashion, there is some lemonade to be had with all of these lemons. They call it merinomink, or possumdown, or Eco-fur. While the names are ridiculous, the notion is a good one and all of the fur comes from wild-caught pest animals. No matter how unnerving it is to see a truck drive by with the side painted “cashmere extermination,” I have to say, I am glad the animals are used for something. I don’t know what PETA would say.

Maybe the idea will catch in the states and your next pair of fancy Christmas socks will be made of rat-fluff or pigeon-suede…

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