I’d come to watch the Adsheads poke at decaying stoats because they are nature lovers. So are most New Zealanders. Indeed, on a per-capita basis, New Zealand may be the most nature-loving nation on the planet. With a population of just four and a half million, the country has some four thousand conservation groups. But theirs is, to borrow E. O. Wilson’s term, a bloody, bloody biophilia. The sort of amateur naturalist who in Oregon or Oklahoma might track butterflies or band birds will, in Otorohanga, poison possums and crush the heads of hedgehogs. As the coördinator of one volunteer group put it to me, “We always say that, for us, conservation is all about killing things.”
It’s a bizarre story.
A number of commenters are wondering why I think this is bizarre. I guess it’s just because the notion of living in a place with no mammals whatsoever (other than humans) seems very weird to me. I understand that they’re not native, but I’ve lived with them all my life, and have trouble imagining their total absence. Would I even be allowed to keep a dog? Or a cat?