The history of transportations of stoats (Mustela erminea) and weasels (M. nivalis) to New Zealand, 1883–92
King, C. M. (2017). The history of transportations of stoats (Mustela erminea) and weasels (M. nivalis) to New Zealand, 1883–92. International Review of Environmental History, 3(2), 51–87. https://doi.org/10.22459/ireh.03.02.2017.04
Permanent Research Commons link: https://hdl.handle.net/10289/13686
This article presents an intensive original analysis of the history of the first deliberate transportations of non-domesticated European predators into southern New Zealand during the second half of the nineteenth century. It was part of one of the world’s first large-scale attempts to use alien carnivores as agents of biological control against a major vertebrate pest. In response to serious pasture damage in Southland and Otago by European rabbits, and the consequent decline in the value of wool exports, tens of thousands of the rabbits’ ‘natural enemies’, semi-tame ferrets, and pet cats collected from cities, were liberated on the worst-affected pastoral land, followed by wild-captured stoats and weasels. Against strong and repeated protests, at least 7,838 stoats and weasels were imported from Britain in at least 25 shipments between 1883 and 1892. The total cost over the decade was probably at least NZ$1–2 million in today’s money, with no effect on the numbers of rabbits. The historic details of the mustelid introductions, never previously assembled, cast an unconventional light on an old story, concerning how powerful economic interests and dominant cultural assumptions determine official policy, with implications for thinking about contemporary ecological globalisation.
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