Innoxious creatures

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From Te Ara – Hamish Foote, ‘Allegorical triumph of Sir George’ (2001)

The first New Zealand acclimatisation society probably started in Auckland in 1861. It was focused on introducing “all manner of new species as long as they were ‘innoxious’.”

Innoxious means harmless, and we all know now that the introduction of some species to New Zealand has been far from harmless to endemic species of flora and flora. But the introduction of such things as deer, chaffinches and skylarks was, in the main, to give settlers a reminder of home. In my research it seems to me that there were three kinds of acclimatisers. Those who just wanted to be reminded of home, surrounded by familiar sights and sounds. Those who saw it as God’s work to bring the superior creatures of their homeland to the heathen world – to improve on nature. And finally those who wanted to continue their country pursuits by releasing animals just for the purpose of then hunting them to death again. The first kind I can sympathise with – I miss robins too. The second, I can’t quite accept. Who are we to say that one creature is more superior than another? And the third, well I have never been a fan of guns for sport, let’s leave it at that!

In all cases the acclimatisers had the best of intentions. But what a different country we would call home if there were no rabbits to wreak havoc on our high country land, no gorse swamping our hillsides, no mustelids killing our ground-dwelling birds, no hedgehogs eating our native birds’ eggs.  (One day I will write a book about the demise of the Huia. It may have a happy ending).

Sometimes researching a new book can be tedious, but not in this case. I needed some facts to fit the story of Lucy’s creatures, brought from England in cages. Finches, larks, pheasants and doves. Lucy meets Basil Drummond, a local acclimatiser, and we have a taste of romance between them. But when Mr Drummond shows himself to be in the third group rather than the first, well, let’s just say there’s a falling out between them!

It has been fascinating. If you want to know more, try Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand – I kind of wish the zebras on Auckland streets had been a thing, though!

Look out for Lucy’s story in Book 2 of the Applecross Saga, ‘Shepherd’s Delight’. Due out in spring 2019.

2 Comments on “Innoxious creatures

  1. Is that Sir George Grey of Kawau Island fame? He brought zebras, monkeys, peacocks, wallabies to the island. Unfortunately, the wallabies are still creating havoc! Only a couple of peacocks left, but the other creatures didn’t survive. Bonkers!

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    • Indeed it is, and yes, those wallabies are causing havoc down here too these days. Still quite like the idea of zebra roaming the Mackenzie Basin though!

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