Lots of chickens were going missing and, naturally, it was assumed that roving dogs were to blame. Lal’s owners were thus a little surprised to see the cow sneak up to the chicken coop and to then grab and eat some of the chicks.
Listening to Callaghan on YouTube also reminded me of a point that Nick Smith had made the day of the saddleback release: in New Zealand, killing small mammals brings people together. During my travels around the country, I found that extermination, weird as it may sound, really is a grassroots affair. I met people like the Adsheads, who had decided to clear their own land, and also people like Annalily van den Broeke, who every few weeks goes out to reset traps in a park near her home, in the suburbs of Auckland. In Wellington, I met a man named Kelvin Hastie, who works for a 3-D mapping company. He had divided his neighborhood into a grid and was organizing the community to get a rat trap into every hundred-square-metre block.
“Most of the neighbors are pretty into it,” he told me.
Amusingly, just like the Dutch export their knowledge of water engineering, New Zealand exports its knowledge of killing small mammals:
Meanwhile, by tackling larger and larger areas, New Zealanders have expanded the boundaries of what seems possible, and they increasingly find their skills in demand. When, for example, Australia decided to try to get rid of invasive rodents on Macquarie Island, roughly halfway between Tasmania and Antarctica, it hired a New Zealander to lead the effort, and when the U.S. National Park Service decided to get rid of pigs on Santa Cruz Island, off the coast of Southern California, it hired Kiwis to shoot them. The largest rat-eradication effort ever attempted is now in progress on South Georgia Island, a British territory in the South Atlantic with an area of nearly a million acres. A New Zealand helicopter pilot was brought in to fly the bait-dropping missions. One day, when I was driving around with James Russell, he got an e-mail from Brazil: the government wanted to hire him to help it get rid of rats on the Fernando de Noronha archipelago, off Recife. David Bellamy, a British environmentalist and TV personality, has observed that New Zealand is the only country in the world that has succeeded in turning pest eradication into an export industry.
Most New Zealanders laugh at claims that Canadian moose have somehow survived in the south island wilderness since the 1910 introduction of 10 antlered immigrants from Saskatchewan. Purported sightings of the gangly ungulate are widely viewed as hoaxes inhabiting the same eco-illogical niche as the Loch Ness monster, Ogopogo and abominable snowman.
But a tuft of hair discovered by biologist Ken Tustin — a researcher in the remote Fiordland National Park and a long-time believer in the legend — has tested positive for moose genes at a Canadian DNA lab. The news has sparked a media sensation in New Zealand and prompted one of the country’s MPs to demand urgent protection for a beloved species long thought to have disappeared.
It’s all connected.