Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Haley Reading Group: The Big Kill



[Best American Science and Nature Writing]

By Brittany Tuggle

Elizabeth Kolbert’s article “The Big Kill,” reprinted in The Best American Science and Nature Writing, sets its scopes on New Zealand’s ongoing problem with invasive mammals attacking native fauna which leads to native birds becoming extinct along with kiwi. Kolbert explores the issue of exterminating specific mammals for conservation of native wildlife, and how human migratory patterns throughout history have lead to certain species of mammals being brought to different parts of the world. Thus, she explains how enormous the task of eliminating invasive species truly is given the fact that humans will never stop traveling and shipping goods from country to country which leads to these invasions in the first place.

Kolbert’s discussion of humans hunting and killing invasive mammals to protect native wildlife and New Zealand’s national identity is extremely interesting. At one point, she quotes a New Zealander who explains that “‘The connection with species that are unique to New Zealand is increasingly part of our national identity. It’s what we are as New Zealanders, and I make no bones of the fact that the government is keen to encourage that. You need some things for a country to hold together’” (167). This indicates the great human tendency for identity and community within a single nation as a point of pride.

After reading Jarvis’s article, what was one point concerning the irony of exterminating certain mammals to protect other species that was particularly profound to you? Please provide a page number citation.

44 comments:

Aleeya B said...

The Big Kill”by Elizabeth Kolbert is unique because of the extreme measures the New Landers take to protect their native wildlife. Towards the end she says “ My visit happened to coincide with the application of one of these aggressive tools. The country’s Department of Conservation was conducting a massive aerial drop of a toxin known as 1080. (The key ingredient in 1080, sodium fluoroacetate, interferes with energy production on a cellular level, inflicting what amounts to a heart attack)”(167).
This shows the great lengths that the New Zealanders will go to save their wildlife.

Without reading this article I would not know that New Zealand has few native animals. I do not think that I have ever thought about any country’s native animals. This article has informed me on what the Department of Conservation in New Zealand does to protect their wildlife.

Aleeya B

Joshua Jones said...

I found it ironic that after New Zealand attempted to use the Sirocco birds for entertainment, they cast them away and then the infestation of rats increased. Even the author notes a local saying that "...Wouldn't it be great if New Zealand had birds everywhere and we didn't have to worry about rats?" (176). This piece is profound to me because it alerted me of one of the main points of the essay; to show that the extermination of animals is real and can be a problem to the diversity of life.

Still, it is interesting that New Zealand took sport in extermination and cleansing of the land. I would have never known about it prior to reading this essay.

-Joshua J.

Asher said...

This chapter was very interesting to me, about the native wildlife of New Zealand. I've heard of the diverse amount wildlife in the country, but I never knew that such measures go to protecting the wildlife. One thing I really found interesting was on page (169) where they talk about the rat problem that New Zealand has. I found that the arrival of the rat, from the Maori was interesting, in the way that they weren't able to kill and eat all of the rats before they multiplied. The ecologist in this chapter, James Russell, asks people to send him talks of rats that they have trapped, so that he can research them, which means that rat trapping in New Zealand is a popular thing. I found that interesting, because we have rats in the U.S. too, but we kind of just let them be if they aren't bothering us, but It's interesting that in New Zealand, the population of rats has grown so much, that people are actively trying to catch them.

-Asher Denkyirah



Nylah Berner said...

"The Big Kill" describes how Kevin Adshead, in attempt to save the trees, began killing possums by dosing them with cyanide. The article reads, "One thing led to another, and soon the Adsheads were also going after rats. With them the preferred poison is an anticoagulant that causes internal hemorrhaging" (163). This interested me because I never really thought about how poison worked.

Brandy Collier said...

I thought it was ironic that they used 1080 to kill the rats because their numbers increased which would reduce the numbers of the other animals. On page 167 it states, "... produced an exceptionally large supply of beech seed which in turn had produced an explosion in the number of rats and stoats". They spread the toxin in order to reduce the amount of rats and mice in order to save the native animals because when the seeds would run out the rats would have to find something else to survive off of.

Simone Hall said...

The reading "The Big Kill" was extremely interesting to me in particular because I have always been fascinated with wildlife, the extent people will go to preserve it, and the roles different animals play. Reading about New Zealand really opened my eyes to some of the major things that animals do. For example, on page 176 it basically stated that increasing the amount of birds in our environment would decrease the number of rats. This is something that most people don't realize or think about. Thanks to this reading, I became more interested in learning what other animals are related on the level that birds and rats are, and why.

Jessica D said...

On page 169,I found it interesting that they used 1080 pesticide to kill the rats in New Zealand. Using this pesticide also kills the other native animals. Its is amazing how a simple chemical can destroy a whole population.

Richyrich98 Gude said...

I found it ironic that they were trying to get rid of the rats, but were actually enhancing their reproduction. The quote on page 176 tells the make up of how bad it became, the quote from Russell reads, "It is a daunting scale that we're talking about." I found this interesting because they were trying to get rid of a problem, but what they used in fact only made it worse. This could be connected to things that happen in our own country, such as trying to "better America", but the road it takes to become successful seems to be only for the elite, or the ones who just get it, it doesn't seem like the average person can acquire success like they used to.

Jazmyn Maggitt said...

I find the irony in the way that New Zealand has saved many species of birds from extinction but yet some of them want to rid the country of all mammalian predators. The New Zealander of the Year said,"'Let's get rid of the lot,' Callaghan said. 'Let's get rid of all the predators-all the damned mustelids, all the rats, all the possums- from the mainland'"(176). To me it almost seems like they just want to keep the "beautiful" creatures and not the ones that aren't so cute. It seems like the beauty of the country is more important than the welfare of the natural system that depends on those animals to do their specific jobs and help keep the balance of life.

Aja J said...

I thought this article was very interesting. The people of New Zealand referred to some animals as invaders. “The invaders are eating their way through the native fauna, producing what is, even in an age of generalized extinction, a major crisis,”(164). Killing animals to save other living things seems quite irrational, but I think in New Zealand’s case it may not be considering they have no native mammals.

Aja J

Olivia Slater said...

"'Let's get rid of a lot. . . Let's get rid of all the predators'" (176); this idea is absolutely absurd. Every animal that is not at the bottom of the food chain is considered a predator of some sort. By this logic, essentially every species would be irradiated. Just because "'rats'" and "'possums'" are not considered friendly or likable creature to the human race does not make them any less valuable to the ecosystem. Spreading disease is a part of nature. Evolution demands for the spread of disease, extinction, and dominance of different species. This was my least favorite chapter thus far because of the unrealistic and poorly thought-out ideas that Callaghan was suggesting.

Kaelyn Blunt said...

I found it interesting that on page 169, they were talking about how there were so many different types of animals being brought back to their civilization for studies and whatnot, yet they still called them an infestation. Some were brought back by accident, but some on purpose. They blamed the animal because they wanted to study it, and when they let it loose, they called it an infestation. It just relates to the world we live in now.
Kaelyn B.

Payton Bridegroom said...

On page 176 Callaghan says "Let's get rid of all the predators-all the damned mustelids, all the rats, all the possums- from the mainland". I think it is ironic that they wanted to get rid of all the predators when in science classes they are always told us if you took away predators it could lead to a trophic cascade. Meaning it would effect the food web and the ecosystem. making it ironic because it they would take away the predators it would have an effect on all the other animals.

Zuriah Harkins said...

The most ironic thing to me was the way that people in New Zealand decided to kill the rodents. For example, on the very last page of "The Big Kill," Van Dam states, "In the case of the possums, it had turned out that a blow to the head wasn't enough to bring about quick death. For that reason the A12 is designed to fill the animal's skull with carbon dioxide and emulsify the brain" (page 178).

It is just crazy that New Zealanders took very extreme measures in making sure that these rodents died and were very determined to get rid of them. However, just after reading about their native animals and seeing how they described them made me very interested to learn more about them. Therefore, I understand why the New Zealanders want to see the rodents disappear so badly.

Zuriah H.

Kayla Daniels said...

This particular article gives me mixed feelings. I feel strongly for the animals in danger and the ones being purposely wiped out. The quote,"Let's get rid of the lot...all of the predators...". This worries me because we all know predators are also important. This quote just seems ignorant to me.

Robert Craig Jr said...

I found it interesting that in "The Big Kill" they had to kill one lifeform to save another. In order to save the trees in New Zealand, they had to kill the opossums there. I feel as though this instance speaks volumes on the changes needed in conservation efforts across the globe.

Marcus Barnes said...

I thought it was very ironic in how they tried to handle the problem. "My visit happened to coincide with the application of one of these aggressive tools. The country's Department of Conservation was conducting a massive aerial drop of a toxin known as 1080" (167). With it being a "massive" aerial drop, you would have to imagine that this toxin would be hard to contain to just exterminating rats, therefore it is obviously an awful idea and a horrible tactic to use. It would kill native animals as well, which defeats the purpose anyways. Not only would it kill off all species of animals, it could destroy the environment and ecosystem, which if any animals were to survive the poison, they would die from having a destroyed habitat.

Carlie Bibbs said...

This article was very interesting to me but the main that was ironic is that they are trying to get rid of one species just to save another. I understand the value of native species but to completely get rid of other animals like rats seems cruel too because they are animals as well and every organism has a specific function in the ecosystem. Without one, the other one may be affected negatively.

Breanna B. said...

Just in reading about the extermination of a species to save another, I was brought to a human social event--genocide. I believe it is extremely dishonorable to perform such a an act, determining the fate of a populous to simply benefit another. When they spoke of dousing the possums in cyanide to save trees, I found it extremely cruel and unjust. Nature should be allowed to progress, well, naturally.

Tatyana Curtis said...

one point concerning the irony of exterminating certain mammals to protect other species that was particularly profound to me was on page (167) they talked about getting rid of all the predator animals off of the mainland. The iron in this the fact of in order to have a thriving ecosystem , it's needs predators and prey. With the predator prey phenomenon there wouldn't be a ecosystem in the first place. One species will become over populated having an unblance to the ecosystem / habitat.

Anonymous said...

One thing I found profound was on page 164. It said "In New Zealand anything with fur and beady little eyes is an invader." It went on to talk about how children became little exterminators. This entire paragraph is extremely weird and doesn't seem to have much logic.
Sydney J.

Paris Smith said...

The one point that I found interesting was that on page 167, they talked about getting rid of all the predators on the mainland. That might sound good in theory and a great way to ensure your survival but a society can't function that way. In theory, we would love a world without chaos, violence, war, and all the bad things and bad people in the world but what kind of world would that be? It is sad, but we need bad things in the world to have balance in society. If we never experience pain and loss, we will not learn to appreciate life that we have. Every time we have faced pain, loss, and suffering, we reflect on how lucky we are and how life is way too precious because it can be cut at anytime, so we begin to do things we would not normally do in order to grow as people, and if we can't grow as a society, then after us, society wont and cant exist anymore.

Fiona Hill said...

I didn't understand the concept of killing one animal to save another. The ecosystem wont thrive if you don't have a predator/prey complex that controls population. Also, every animal has a predator, so in order to follow the 'kill one animal to save another' logic, you'd basically have to kill everything, really. This article didn't make much sense to me.

Fiona H.

Aliyah Butler said...

This article made me a little uncomfortable. It felt like they were trying to play God by picking and choosing what species "belonged" and which didn't. Who are we, as animals ourselves, to say which animals can or can't inhabit certain areas? I would say that humans are predators as well, so why is it okay for us to be here and not other predators? This quote from page 176 is what makes me the most uncomfortable, "Let's get rid of all the predators — all the damned mustelids, all the rats, all the possums — from the mainland." Just because we can get rid of them, doesn't mean that we should.

Aliyah B.

Natasha said...

I personally found this section intriguing to learn about, but also somewhat unrealistic. I am strong believer in animal rights and have been a vegetarian since 7th grade. Although I don't particularly like possums or rats, it's not ethical to try to gid rid of an entire species (and also not really possible).

On page 176, Callaghan refers to possums and rats as "damned mustelids." He also says to get rid of the rats, they have to have more birds in New Zealand. That is definitely an interesting theory and I had never heard of that before. I didn't think people particularly would want a bunch of birds arounf since they leave droppings on cars, houses, etc.

All in all, this was interesting but I'm glad we don't have this mindset on wildlife in the United States.

Natasha Handy

Derick B. said...

I find this article ironic because growing up and being in several different science classes, I learned that every organism in an environment plays a role. So on page 165, when it stated that New Zealand's most prominent scientist convinced people to kill all mammalian predators, I wondered were the things I learned about false or is this scientist unaware of the effects his plan will have?

Nyla Gantt said...

On page 167 in "The Big Kill" article,the sentence "I say to people, If you want your grandkids to see kiwi only in sanctuaries, well, that's where we're headed. And that's why we need to use pretty aggressive tools to try to turn this around." I feel as if they were trying to control the world and who inhabits it. The animals that were made were put here for a reason.If someone is here that we don't like or want here, we can't just kill all the people we don't like. That is unethical, as well as the killing off of species that we're not very fond of.

- Nyla G.

Kathryn Hatches said...

Elizabeth Kolbert's "The Big Kill" was a little disturbing for my taste. I find it revolting that so many people speak of and treat other species like they exist to serve us and that they are beneath us somehow, even though we are all, in fact, animals. The only reason we are considered to exist at the top of the food chain is because we have a high level of cognition, and we still use shortcuts for our thought processing. One irony I found about New Zealand's destruction of their wildlife is, "to save the trees, the Adsheads decided to eliminate the possums," (Page 163). I don't think it's acceptable to eradicate another species in the hopes of saving another; our ecosystem simply doesn't work like that.
-Kathryn Hatches

Cheniya A. said...

In this article, I found it ironic that after casting away the sirocco birds they were unable to get rid of, or even control, the infestation of rats in New Zealand. They even went so far as to lament how they would rather have a bird infestation afterwards (176). It was sort of karma, the unwanted infestation after trying to play God. It reminded me of the locusts in the Bible. To me, this is profound because God is known to punish those who interfere with his plans and question his judgement.

De'Abrion Joyner said...

On page 168 the author quotes a man saying "...people don't like poisons, but they like rats even less" . This is pretty funny to me because when you think about it, we do a lot of things that we don't like or agree with just because we don't agree with something else more. Later on page 168 the author talks about seeing a sign as you entered an island that read "Have you checked for rats, mice and seed?". This point shows just how serious they take keeping these types of pests out of their lives.

Jeremiah B. said...

One point I found that was ironic was when Callaghan compared his own plan to that of the Apollo program (176). The extermination of predators in New Zealand seemed like a far fetched idea in my opinion because it would be difficult to do so without harming any other animals on the islands.

Alona Davenport said...

Something that stuck out is how the animals in New Zealand are considered to be very unique to their identity (167). It was described that the species in New Zealand are, pretty much, as important as the Constitution is in America. With that, it made the killing of the other species a little more understandable. In a way, they found the species to be really special and self-identifying so it would be important to protect the at all cost.

Miya Evans said...

This week's reading assignment "The Big Kill" was right up my alley. I am in love with wildlife and that love for wildlife and animals is what drove me towards my major. When talking about wildlife, one always questions the lengths we have to go for the preservation of it. In the reading it highlights behaviors found within some of the wildlife. On page 176 he says "wouldn't it be great if New Zealand had birds everywhere and we didn't have to worry about rats?". In summary, if the bird population goes up, their rat problem goes down. The circle of life is not to be tampered with or disrupted and i think that this reading does a really good job of getting that across. It just has a way of showing how everything is connected.

Peyton D. said...

I have never even considered the vast array of wildlife that New Zealand has. The point I found ironic is that the rat infestation(Page 169) was worsened by banishment of Sirrico birds(176). A New Zealand citizen uttered in irony "...Wouldn't it be great if New Zealand had birds everywhere and we didn't have to worry about rats?" Every animal has it's natural place in the habitat for a reason. Humans do not understand the purpose of natural order until it is greatly disrupted.

Bryce Barker said...

I find it ironic that on page 176 Callaghan says, "let's get rid of the lot. Let's get rid of all the predators." Its talks about how all the mammalian animals are killing all the birds, so to fix that problem the people should kill all the mammals. If they create a change reaction then who will stop all the people from killing the mammals? To solve a problem the first idea shouldn't be to stat killing other life, there should be more peaceful approachable options.

Barry F. said...

I actually learned about the biodiversity of animals in NZ in one of my classes this semester. I found it ironic that they could change the population of rats with the introduction of bids (176). Introduction of a foreign species in any habitat has many unforeseen repercussions. There is a vast network of animal interactions that are mutual, so getting rid of one could harm another's life.

John Kriha said...

After reading Kolbert’s “The Big Kill”, the extermination of certain mammals to protect other species is ironic for several reasons. It is mostly ironic because Kolbert talks about invasive species being the issue but human intervention would make us the invasive species. On page 176, Callaghan’s quote, “and wouldn’t it be great if New Zealand had birds everywhere and we did not have to worry about rats?” insinuates that bringing in birds to let nature solve the rat issue is a good solution. However, that also is intervention and the species of bird is now invasive.

Shardai J-H. said...

On page 176 where it mentions getting rid of predators seems very ironic. If they get rid of the predators they have to deal with the smaller animals like rats that would usually be eaten by larger animals. Getting rid of the predators will only make other issues worse, such as using pesticides that'll effect other organisms.

Kellsey H said...

The irony was evident in New Zealand's effort to use the Sirocco birds as a source of entertainment. Later, the population of rodents increased. This demonstrated the notion that ridding of certain animals can prove to be quite problematic. This can be found on page 176.

Alexis Acoff said...

I found it interesting that someone said, "Lets get rid of the lot...Lets get rid of all the predators-all the damned mustelids, all the rats, all the possums-from the mainland". I don't think that people understand the role and importance of every animal that God has placed on this earth. It is not up to humans to pick and choose what animals we want to live here with us, based off of our own selfish opinions of them. There are already plenty of animals that are going extinct, either naturally or by human influence, so there would be no need to kill off more just because!

cassidy oliver said...

After reading the "The Big Kill" its interesting how New Zealand is classified as the most nature loving nation on the planet. Their idea of nation loving is protecting their native species by killing the "invaders". How does such a contradiction allow New Zealand to be classified as the most nature loving nation?

albino ALPACA said...

The profound thing to me was the large area that was made for Sirocco, the Kakapo bird. On Page 171 it says that the reserve is in a 29 mile long circular fence. That is about 67 square miles all for one bird. They must consider this quite serious to make a whole reserve for this particular bird.

David B.

albino ALPACA said...

The profound thing to me was the large area that was made for Sirocco, the Kakapo bird. On Page 171 it says that the reserve is in a 29 mile long circular fence. That is about 67 square miles all for one bird. They must consider this quite serious to make a whole reserve for this particular bird.

David B.

Maxwell Chew said...

This article really opened up my eyes to how far a country will go to protect its native creatures. I don't know much about New Zealand and to read about how hard the things would work to maintain their wildlife is pretty inspiring.