Saturday, May 11, 2013

New Zealand

Surrounded by water, it shouldn’t be surprising that the only mammals native to New Zealand are those that can swim for long distances, such as dolphins, seals and whales, and bats, who, of course, made the journey by air.

I’d never given that much thought until recently.  A friend’s granddaughter spent a couple of months there recently as did a couple of my blogging friends.  It made me curious to learn a bit more.  After the marine mammals, which arrived there on their own power, humans were the next mammals to reach New Zealand and they have occupied it for less than a thousand years.  First arriving from islands in the Pacific, they were followed somewhat later by Europeans, who brought other mammals including dogs, cats, and rats.   For millions of years, many species of frogs, lizards and ground-nesting birds had flourished in New Zealand, protected by the island’s natural Home Insulation of surrounding ocean.  I doubt that anyone planned on bringing the rats, but they were a fact of life on ships.   Pet lovers will understand the desire to take one’s pets along, but their introduction proved fatal for many of the country’s inhabitants.  In the time since humans introduced these mammals, over fifty species of native birds have become extinct.  Humans have also been directly responsible for the reduction or extinction of seals and some of the larger native birds, including the moa.  Over twenty species of this flightless bird, which came in sizes up to five-hundred pounds, were lost. 

A happier addition to the islands was the introduction of sheep, first brought into the country by Captain Cook in the later part of the eighteenth century.   New Zealand now produces over twenty-five percent of the world’s wool.  Many of the breeds produce strong wool types that are used in carpet and furnishing, but there is also a large population of Merino sheep.  These provide Merino wool, which is well known for its softness and is used to make luxury clothing for adults, as well as Merino Baby Clothes.      I was not familiar with Possum Merino clothing, but these products are manufactured from a yarn that is a combination of possum fur and Merino wool.  The resulting material carries the softness of Merino wool, with increased warmth from the fur.   It sounds like a perfect blend.  One could only wish that the introduction of mammals with other native species could have meshed half as well.

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