Beyond the Barrier
by Des Casey

MANY Species are getting quite a hammering these days. Recently the New Zealand Herald (26/10/13) reported poachers using cyanide in buckets of water in Zimbabwean national parks – an easy way to gain the tusks of 300 elephants. There are many other reports: the world’s markets clearly prefer palm oil to orang-utans, shark fin soup to sharks, exotic medicines to tigers.

Closer to home fairy terns have lost part of a last stand at Mangawhai; two more albatross and two more shag species graduate from being “nationally endangered” to “nationally critical”. Not much fun either for the high country kea as it qualifies as “threatened”. To finish off, the six dolphin species in New Zealand waters are now on the podium wearing the badge marked “threatened”.

Zooming in further, the Barrier has its own elephants, orang-utans, tigers and sharks. They go under the names of black petrels, pateke, banded rails, chevron skinks, kaka and dotterels. Different enemies but similar results. Hasten the day when that other species finds the will and the way to stop the slaughter.
Almost 25 years ago a radio news item prompted this poem by Angela Hills.

yesterday while I was
cleaning the oven
getting my hair done
three hundred elephants died
today while I am vacuuming
clearing out the pantry
talking on the telephone
three hundred elephants are dying
tomorrow I will
enjoy the sun
stroke the cat

What has changed? What is the same? What will change?

What’s that falling out of the sky? It’s faecal bombs! Dung beetles are about to get the tick to emigrate. They are to fill a hole in the labour market by ridding the land of increasing deposits of animal waste, with growing bovine herds particularly in their sights. But two of the eleven species approved for release are night flyers.
The NZ Herald (2/11/13) reports that there is concern dung beetles could be attracted to city lights at night. The bombing of streets and those walking them could alter city life.

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Rolling, rolling, rolling - a dung beetle at work preparing
a repository for an egg which it will bury in the soil.


Politicians around the globe are ducking and diving as they rationalise, differentiate, excuse, procrastinate and deny what looks very likely to be a change of climate taking place. Many Filipinos seem not to be so confused. So too many in the southern states of the US as the tempo of hurricanes appears to be rising. Glaciers also appear to be making a statement.
Brian Fallow, writing in the NZ Herald (3/10/13) announced both good and bad news. The good – we can do something about it. The bad – we are doing about “five-eighths of not very much at all”. He summed up the Government’s position eloquently
“ … as economically myopic as it is morally contemptible”. Whatever the extent of the danger one would expect an intelligent species to at least consider the precautionary principle. It is difficult to see where mining for coal and drilling for oil fits with this.

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Feral cats are more and more being seen as a potent threat to efforts to save vulnerable species. They have become a significant problem in the Whangateau Harbour where the Omaha predator fence is being breached at its western arm. Traps are ensuring stoats, weasels, rats and possums are not able to enter the sanctuary, but the cats’ cunning has them shying away from traps. Those involved in species protection on the Barrier regularly speak of the damage cats are doing to their efforts.

The remains of a kereru (native pigeon) killed by a feral cat. 
South Fork, Hirakimata.  Photo: Kate Waterhouse.