An Ode To Possums and other Pests

Posted by Robert Vennell @RobertVennell


Conservation in New Zealand often involves killing things. Especially cute and fluffy things, like bunnies, mice, hedgehogs, ferrets and possums. We’ve got a good reason for it – these creatures are decimating our native ecosystems and wildlife and would cause untold destruction if left unchecked. But our obsession with killing things sometimes boggles overseas observers who struggle to understand why we would dress up dead possums in wedding gowns and bikinis.  Come to think of it, I struggle to understand that one as well.

Growing up in New Zealand I think it can be really easy to hate our introduced mammals for all the damage they cause. But its nice from time to time to reflect on how neat these creatures really are. They are incredibly intelligent, curious and fascinating little beasties – It’s just a shame they are in the wrong place and need to go.

One of the things I’ve really enjoyed about using camera-traps for my research – is getting to observe all sorts of cryptic creatures and behaviours that we rarely get a chance to see.

For example, if you head along to the Ecology Ngatahi Youtube Channel you can check out this great video of a playful possum getting up to all sorts of mischief. The final image is a rat falling out of the tree – perhaps it was pushed? Or how about this somewhat spooky montage of rats scuttling up a tree at rapid speed.

The nature of conservation in New Zealand means that to protect our native species from extinction, we have to remove the invasive ones – but that doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate these pests for being amazing little critters in their own right.


Robert VennellRobert Vennell is an MSc student in the Centre of Biodiversity and Biosecurity, University of Auckland studying the impacts of wild pigs on native forests. He is supervised by Margaret Stanley, Mark Mitchell (Hawkes Bay Regional Council),Cheryl Krull (AUT) and Al Glen (Landcare Research). He also writes about the history, meaning and significance of New Zealand’s native tree species at



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