The opossum is used in dog food and clothing in New Zealand as pests thrive | Popgen Tech
A New Zealand company has come up with perhaps the most creative way to encourage the culling of Australian opossums since they were introduced to a predator-free country nearly 200 years ago.
The common opossum has wreaked havoc on New Zealand’s native flora and fauna since it was introduced in 1837 in a failed attempt to start the fur trade.
Australia’s nocturnal marsupial population is kept in check by a harsher climate, more predators and fewer food sources.
However, the opossum has thrived in New Zealand and the nation has stopped at nothing to try to rid both the North and South Island of the pest.
New Zealand’s largest dog food company, Superior Pet Food Co., has increased production of its ‘Possyum’ line, which encourages hunters to catch and sell vermin.
Superior Pet Food Co. has used more than 500,000kg of possum meat in its ‘Possyum’ products since 2010 – or around 350,000 possums – and in 2021 they were producing around 3,000 rolls of ‘Possyum’ per day.
The use of opossum meat for pets has also contributed to New Zealand’s bold plan to eliminate the pests by 2050.
New Zealand’s largest dog food manufacturer has launched a thriving ‘Possyum’ range of products (pictured above) to help curb the opossum population
The pest control industry has seen a huge economic boom thanks to interest in the possum meat trade, particularly Superior Pet Food Co.’s main supplier, Pest Pro NZ.
“The business has boomed,” Zach Howarth, manager of Pest Pro NZ, told Stuff.
“If there was no meat there, the guys wouldn’t be doing it anymore,” he said.
“The only reason they’ve been able to continue is because the demand for meat has increased.”
Compared to other popular dog meats, opossum provides great health benefits, containing a high percentage of fatty acids, as well as Omega 3 and 6, which help a dog’s joints, skin and coat.
Many other possum meat based dog food lines have hit the shelves in New Zealand and Pest Pro NZ has gone from selling only Superior Pet Food Co. now supplies more than 29 other manufacturers.
The common opossum (pictured) wreaked havoc on New Zealand’s historically predator-free islands after Australians introduced them in 1837 to try to start the fur trade
Opossums have been introduced twice to one location in the South Island in the hope of creating a fur trade, but the pests have shown no problems spreading to both islands.
Predators such as feral cats and snakes, which hold down the opossum population in Australia, are virtually non-existent in New Zealand, leading to a population boom.
Now free from predators, many native plants and animals have come under attack from swarms of pests that roam together in search of food and shelter.
The possums were filmed eating the eggs and chicks of the Kokoko, a beloved native bird that features on their $50 bill and is one of New Zealand’s five famous breeding birds.
According to New Zealand’s Department of Conservation, the kakako is one of many native species whose populations have plummeted due to opossums and ship rats.
The southern Kokoko is believed to have died out for the same reason.
The kakako (pictured) is New Zealand’s favorite native bird and appears on their $50 bill, but their populations are steadily declining due to invasive pests
An Australian Redditor was shocked to find rolls of ‘Possyum’ on the shelves of a local grocery store in New Zealand, posting the photo with the caption “In New Zealand, terry-tailed possums are literally being recycled into dog food.”
The post received over 3,300 upvotes, making it the most popular post on the subreddit in the last 24 hours, with many commenting to express their opinion.
“Some idiot decided to bring them to New Zealand for fur, and they got out and are wreaking havoc on the environment,” one user commented.
“I have no problem with it at all – I’m just shocked how many opossums have to run around in there to make it viable,” wrote another.
Another praised the branding, writing: “Are we just going to ignore how apt the brand name ‘Possyum’ is?”