Saturday, December 19, 2009

Interlopers

The lupins are in flower down south, sheets of them growing pink, blue and purple over the river flats and around the lake; and yellow up on the hills, primrose against the rich gold of the broom. The dogroses are out too, the foxgloves and the elder blossom. Weeds, all of them, the lupins particularly reviled because they change the environment on the stony banks of the rivers, and give cover for predators to creep up on the birds that nest there.

Stoats are the worst, and all along the Milford Track we saw wooden traps with a small hole in the wire mesh at one end and sometimes an egg stuck on a spike inside. It's a long, long war that will never end, the best that DoC can hope for being control.

It tells you all you need to know about New Zealand's environmental history that stoats, weasels and ferrets were introduced, with enormous effort, in the 1880s to try to control the exploding rabbit population after they had been introduced even earlier to provide sport and food for the settlers.

It's an extraordinary story that includes possums, goats and deer, all brought to this mammal-free land by well-intentioned Acclimatisation Societies who then watched with dismay as native and endemic species of flightless birds gradually disappeared. It would be hard to believe, if it weren't still going on elsewhere - cane toads in Australia being a relatively recent example.

And also very pertinent: at a pre-Track briefing at Ultimate Hikes just a week or so before I did the walk, an Australian guest was rather surprised when a cane toad hopped out of her bag right there in the shop.

Having once inadvertently imported a Cook Islands lizard in my suitcase, I can imagine her horror - but it doesn't say much for the Queenstown airport MAF inspectors' powers of observation, especially since they'd actually handled and disinfected the boots where it must have been hiding. Seems they never thought to peep inside, sigh.

Anyway, lupins - noxious, agreed. But aren't they pretty?

1 comment:

the queen said...

It's the first snow here. How could any flower be unwelcome?

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