Sound tasty to you?
The interesting postulation of Roger Beattie, a farmer and conservationist, is that farmed species are not in danger of going the way of the dodo. Quite right. The omnivorous masses will keep the beefy, woolly and dear things alive and kicking for posterity. At least until they end up on your dinner plate.
What does this have to do with our dear little Weka or Kereru?
Well, Mr Beattie is suggesting that perhaps our Department of Conservation should consider the possibility of commercializing the world of endangered species in order to expand the population.
It has created a bit of a kerfuffle. The head of DoC seems to think that Kiwi drumsticks, weka burgers and kereru pie would not be to the taste of the non-avian Kiwis. In fact there seemed to be a moment where the idea of eating your national symbol was somehow an obscene suggestion to make at all. Tell that to our cousins across the ditch with their kangaroo burgers ! *
Now, while I wouldn’t necessarily line up for the first taste of Kiwi Wings, I can see that there is a seed of logic in his suggestion. It would be better for our wildlife if we kept our minds open to any idea that may encourage less dodo-like endings for their species.
I can see that commercializing endangered species is a bit of a weird concept. No one is going to want to eat the Kauri snail, other than the French, but maybe we could see the odd bit of weka and kereru hitting the fine dining plates of the world. After all, the weka has been a food source before and which gourmet would turn down the chance at a pigeon the size of your average kereru?
There is nothing quite like hearing and watching the wood pigeons in flight. They are big, loud and completely mad. They don’t look aerodynamically capable and they occasionally don’t sound like they’ve figured out the landing on branches skill, but they are also completely wonderful. If we have to farm some of them for gourmets to delight over in order to ensure their survival then personally I think we should take a long hard look at the possibility and not shrug it off because it’s “not the way we go about conserving things”.
I believe there is certainly a case to examine here. Would attempting small-scale commercialization of breeding for profit be such a bad thing really? With the right controls, the right choice of species to begin with, and the right monitoring, perhaps this could be a workable solution to the survival of some native species.
Perhaps in a few decades the multinational dish Big Mac will have been replaced by a local alternative – the Wicked Weka. And all because we tried to think out of the box to create a plentiful population and a commercially viable breeding stock. I hope so.
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*admittedly they are considered something of a pest and requiring of culling, unlike the situation with our flightless, defenceless, burrowing, nocturnal avian.