Apparently New Zealand exporters are selling brushtail possum meat into Malaysia as "Kiwi bear" and it is considered a delicacy. Those New Zealanders are pretty canny marketers, having successfully turned the Chinese gooseberry into their own Kiwifruit. Maybe this is the start of a big trend?
Now Tasmania is looking to get in on the act, proposing a commercial harvest of brushtail possums which are in abundance in the State. According to a report in The Hobart Mercury, the Australian Government is considering whether to issue export licenses for possum meat or skins. Possums are currently culled in Tasmania to reduce crop and forestry damage and this proposal would allow for the use of the carcasses rather than leaving them to waste. Poisoning of native animals in Tasmania has been controversial for many years and a commercial harvest is one of the ways proposed to move away from using toxins.
Reading some on-line comments about the proposal, it has certainly stirred the passions. Some people are appalled that a native animal could be sold commercially whereas others are delighted at the prospect of using the animals rather than wasting them. The difference to New Zealand is that possums are native to Tasmania whereas they are introduced to New Zealand and are that country's biggest vertebrate pest problem. I think the debate has a long way to run yet.
Also in the news over the past week is this comment from commercial rabbit processor Steve Johnson of Hillston in NSW "Farmed rabbit has no taste". Mr Johnson processes from several hundred to several thousand wild rabbits weekly, but he sees no future in farming rabbits in Australia. He reckons it is impossible to cover the cost of production and he got out of the industry for that reason. But he says he told the ABC that if he could get a few thousand wild rabbits every week, he'd have a market for them.
Personally, I'd rather see a culled animal used than wasted, but long-term I don't want to see industries based on pests. To me this is treating the symptoms rather than the cause and I'd prefer to get to the root of the problem. But I'm willing to admit we are a long-way off finding "cures" for many animal overabundance issues - whether native or introduced.
Posted by Tony Peacock, founder of 'Feral Thoughts'