Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Haley Reading Group: Elizabeth Kolbert’s “The Big Kill”


[The Best American Science and Nature Writing (2015)]

Elizabeth Kolbert’s article “The Big Kill” concentrates on New Zealand’s troubles with invasive mammals diminishing native fauna, which endangers native birds and kiwi. Kolbert raises the issue of exterminating some mammals for the purposes of conserving native wildlife, and how human migratory patterns throughout history have led to some mammals being brought to different parts of the world. She explores the large task of eliminating invasive species, since humans will continue traveling and shipping goods from country to country, thus leading to invasions from various mammals.

Kolbert’s focus on humans hunting and killing invasive mammals to protect native wildlife and New Zealand’s national identity was fascinating or alarming, depending on your point of view. What did you think? How did the article enhance or reshape how you thought about what it means to protect wildlife? Please provide a page number citation, where necessary.

30 comments:

pneumono said...

Hannah C.

This article re-shaped how I view wildlife preservation in various ways. I have formally understood that wildlife preservation essentially means that all wildlife, even the predators must remain untouched by human settlement. I didn't realize that predatory mammals would invade certain areas. I now agree with the arguments posed in the book. If there were to be an abundance of predatory mammals, then they would eventually end the prey species. This is not good for wildlife. Every creature serves a specific purpose, not only in the food chain, but in existence.

Should the prey species die, then the predatory species would die next. If the amount of predatory, invasive species were limited, this would be less of a problem. I have changed my views because of the way that the information was presented through the book. I think that regulation of predatory, invasive species is the best option for wildlife preservation in the long run.

Unknown said...

To begin, this article was, in general, a very interesting read. At first, the idea of going to great links to eliminate invasive species to protect native wildlife seemed very alarming. For example, the country would use massive aerial drops of the toxin 1080 in order to eliminate any wild life that was not indigenous (167). On the other hand, to an extent, I understand where they are coming from. To some of the land, their unique aspects are all they have. They feel they would have nothing to offer if their native wildlife was gone.

Also, I feel that the people of New Zealand are perhaps being a little myopic. To me, trying to rid of anything that is not native is similar to a person not listing to anyone else's opinions because they think what the have is all they need. The nation as a whole, in terms of wildlife preservation, seems to have an ethnocentric appearance; if something is not native, they do not want it present.

Overall, this was a very interesting read that exposed me to a new way of living in terms of wildlife that I had never heard about before.

Respectfully,

Caleb A.

Anonymous said...

It was quite alarming learning that New Zealand poisons their land in order to extinct an invasive specie, especially with a toxins that "inflicts what amounts to a heart attack" (167).This article enhances my belief that wildlife protection should be protecting wildlife from careless people who harm nature, not protecting native animals from alien animals. Regardless of where the animal is from, it is unfair to extinct a specie just to save native wildlife.

I feel that it is nature's decision to extinct a species or not. If a country wants to save native wildlife, then they should block that wildlife off from the predators, rather than killing the predator off all together.

Samantha A.

Anonymous said...

The article is fascinating in the fact that humans figured they needed to hunt and kill the invaders that were brought by earlier humans. It struck me to know that they felt the need to take such a drastic decision. I think that they could come up with a better solution. Although they won’t be able to kill all of the rats and stoats, they could come up with more technology that would decrease the amount of invaders like the A24 and the A12 (page 177-178).
Reading this article has opened my eyes on wildlife. I have a heard about animals being on the edge pf distinction, but recovering from it. I did not, however really realize how big of an issue it is. I believe that nature needs to be preserved and protected by humans. Wildlife is needs to be in its own world untouched by humans. This article has showed me that when humans get involved with wildlife they began to be in more danger than they previously was in. I believe that humans should only intervene when the animals who are prey populations began to reach a certain level. While I believe that predators are somewhat bad, they are good. They too need to be protected. The problem is we can’t protect everyone.

Alexis H.

Caulder B. said...

Caulder B.

I'll admit that when I began reading this article I was on the fence about how they were going about exterminating these animals and I think it's mostly due in part to the opening scene "It writhed and squirmed,as if attempting to rise from the dead."(163) but I understand why they put it there. People want to protect and conserve these endangered species,but they don't want to see the nitty gritty that goes into protecting these animals.

I also thought it was pretty admirable how all New Zealanders see preserving these species as all of their responsibilities. I also liked how it showed how disconnected most of us are when it comes down to really solving issues and realizing that some good things have really horrid beginnings. Overall I enjoyed the article,it's not what I would typically read and it was a nice change of pace.

LaTrina B said...

The article was fascinating in a way because it surprised me as to how much New Zealanders valued their land and wildlife. In the beginning of the article, one New Zealander in particle experimented with different techniques for different bait traps on possums and cats (page 164). They really don't think that what they are doing is wrong at all which is very fascinating.
Even though their land may have great aspects and beautiful views, I think they should take into consideration that they are murdering living creatures. This article has opened my eyes to a whole different view on people that live in New Zealand, it something that I would not have expected to learn about them. There are many other ways you can go about protecting wildlife which does not include exterminating invasive species.

LaTrina B.

Anonymous said...

The means by which New Zealanders believe in protecting the New Zealand wildlife from invasive species was especially interesting. For starters, I found it interesting how a vast majority of New Zealanders actually care about the lives of their wildlife. Often times people tend to focus more on issues that directly affect them, rather than issues that may affect their environment or wildlife.
The article definitely reshaped my understanding of what it means to protect wildlife. While I personally do not believe in the slaughtering of living beings, I was able to under the perspective of the New Zealanders. While the techniques used to protect the New Zealander wildlife seem cruel,such as possums being dosed with cyanide (Kolbert, 163), such matters have had to be done in order to prevent the extinction of such wildlife.


Kami D.

Amira Fane said...

I understand where the people of New Zealand are coming from not wanting wildlife to take over the fauna that gives the country its reputation. However, i do not believe that they can call themselves conservationist (p. 164). The definition of a conservationist is someone who advocates for the protection of the environment and the wildlife. They can not be a conservationist if they are killing the wildlife they are supposed to be protecting even if the wildlife is killing the environment. There could be a balance between removing some of the predators so that they don't completely wipe out the prey, but to remove all of them would be outlandish. If they remove all of the predators, the prey can quickly become overpopulated. Which can in turn still cause many environmental problems that they may not have experienced yet. It is to my belief that there is a natural balance in life that should be maintained. Not to mention, the people of New Zealand invaded the environment to begin with, but thats a whole other story. New Zealand's identity was alarming, and their main purpose was to protect the environment and some wildlife.


-Amira F.

Anonymous said...

I found this reading because I have never really heard or really thought about killing off animas to preserve different ones. I thought it was awful the way that the man Kevin Adshead and his wife kill animals. I understand that they are trying to protect the land but I think it is horrible for them to kill any animals. I think there could be a better solution if they were willing to work for it. They started by killing possums and then it led to more, the text states, "One thing led to another, and soon the Adsheads were also going after rats." (p.163). I think these people need to keep in mind that the animals were not asked to be put on this Earth but they have to do what they need to survive, just like us humans.
This passage helped me understand that we need to do what we can to protect all wildlife and not just the wildlife we choose to protect. Predators and prey need to be protected because they are wildlife. Every piece of nature on this Earth needs to be protected because without it, we would see a major problem in the diversity of wildlife and that would negatively affect us humans, and all the animals in the world.

Jasmine D.

Unknown said...

I had always assumed that in most cases when it came to preserving wildlife or even getting rid of invasive species that they only relocated them.I learned that that wasn't the case for New Zealand- their stance on eliminating the problem directly by killing it is understandable if they country doesn't want to spend money on having to care for and protect species that aren't native to their homeland.

The other interesting thing about New Zealand was its unique species; its frogs evolving a different way from common frogs was a minor but unique detail of not being able to hear with eardrums but being able to have an extra neck bone. The country has a lot of interesting things about it and the people of the country seem to care about its bio-environmental state more then ours does. The other aspect about their choice in elimination was that the killing was to reduce or remove suffering when the target species died so that the termination was efficient.
Andrew H.

Anonymous said...

I found this article very interesting in the sense of how New Zealanders call themselves "conservationists". Conservationists by definition means people who strive to protect nature AND wildlife. The people of New Zealand however believe they are doing their duty by killing invasive mammal species.
If you think about it, all of the invasive mammals species the people were killing, mice, rabbits and possums are much like human. Humans are also invasive species to the island of New Zealand and most likely do more damage to the environment than the mammals they are hunting. The only difference is the humans came by their own free will, while some of the animals they are hunting after were knowingly brought here by humans.


-Fatima B.

Rachael Gray said...

The most intriguing part of this article were the animals. I thought it was amazing that a Rhynchocephalia was found in New Zealand. Until now, I have not heard of a species from the early Mesozoic surviving. The fact that frogs there have developed an extra vertebra instead of ear drums also baffles me. I did not know that animals in different places have actually evolved differently. It makes me sad that so many native New Zealand species have died or are dying off, but I am happy they were able to recuse the Kakapo. I have never heard of a bird’s death being announced in Parliament before, but that just shows how important animals are to New Zealand. It was surprising that New Zealand used 1080 even though it can be harmful to humans. I hope no one lived close to the two acres or forest they put it in. The number of animals New Zealand has killed actually really impresses me.
-Rachael G.

Brian Green said...

I thought that the article was interesting because they New Zealanders want to protect their wildfire and will do anything to make sure it’s safe from animals that will hard the land. For example, James Russell servers as an advisor to Predator Free New Zealand, the group that was formed to pursue Callaghan’s vision. Callaghan’s vision was to get rid of all of the predators from the mainland(176).

After reading the article, wildlife is definitely more than I thought. The New Zealand people go to great measures to protect the land that surrounds them. I do not agree with killing living animals, but in all honesty, it is apart of their culture and how they manage to keep the mainland safe and protected.

Brian G.

Gabrielle Hieken said...

I was very drawn in from the beginning of this article when Kolbert gruesomely depicted an image of a rotting stroat. Soon after, Kolbert explained how the Adsheads household lie down close to 400 traps around their farm in attempts to preserve native wildlife. The specific function of how each trap killing things from rats to cats widened my eyes. This made Kolbert’s focus on humans hunting and killing invasive mammals to protect native wildlife and New Zealand’s national identity alarming. Despite how alarming this was, it was also informing to see the extensive measures this country took to protecting their unique wildlife. I didn't know previously how close the population of New Zealand was to each other. They all seemed on board to eliminate invasive species and played an active role in doing so or just by witnessing the outcome (by being excited to see native species reintroduced to their land). It showed me that protecting wildlife means to be a community among your peers to achieve that common goal. For example, the two things that stuck out to me the most was the 1080 (a pest toxin) and the island of Adele (The island free of pest). I don't believe either of these productions would have been achieved if it wasn't for the connections New Zealand had and its community that wanted this change to happen to ensure protection.

Gabrielle H.

Gabrielle Hieken said...

I was very drawn in from the beginning of this article when Kolbert gruesomely depicted an image of a rotting stroat. Soon after, Kolbert explained how the Adsheads household lie down close to 400 traps around their farm in attempts to preserve native wildlife. The specific function of how each trap killing things from rats to cats widened my eyes. This made Kolbert’s focus on humans hunting and killing invasive mammals to protect native wildlife and New Zealand’s national identity alarming. Despite how alarming this was, it was also informing to see the extensive measures this country took to protecting their unique wildlife. I didn't know previously how close the population of New Zealand was to each other. They all seemed on board to eliminate invasive species and played an active role in doing so or just by witnessing the outcome (by being excited to see native species reintroduced to their land). It showed me that protecting wildlife means to be a community among your peers to achieve that common goal. For example, the two things that stuck out to me the most was the 1080 (a pest toxin) and the island of Adele (The island free of pest). I don't believe either of these productions would have been achieved if it wasn't for the connections New Zealand had and its community that wanted this change to happen to ensure protection.

Gabrielle H.

Anonymous said...

As I began to read the article I was first appalled that Kevin Asdhead seemed to enjoy the killing of animals, especially when he said “I like the smell in there; it attracts things” (164). It was unnerving to read about someone having little to no regards about the value of another’s life. Even after reading this article I do not feel that I could take such actions to get rid of an animal, even if I knew the benefits of it being gone.

However, I soon found myself- not necessarily agreeing with his tactics- but understanding his reasoning. Nick Smith made a point about how the native species had became a large part of New Zealand’s national identity (167). The country had been given an ultimatum to preserve the wildlife that made them who they are or let the invasive species take over. I feel that they are choosing the best option for them, just as America or any other country would in order to maintain the foundation of their identity.

This article gave me a new understanding of what wildlife preservation means. It does not mean to try and save every species. Rather that you sometimes have to protect a species from extinction, even if it means killing others.

-Janay B.

Anonymous said...

As I began to read the article I was first appalled that Kevin Asdhead seemed to enjoy the killing of animals, especially when he said “I like the smell in there; it attracts things” (164). It was unnerving to read about someone having little to no regards about the value of another’s life. Even after reading this article I do not feel that I could take such actions to get rid of an animal, even if I knew the benefits of it being gone.

However, I soon found myself- not necessarily agreeing with his tactics- but understanding his reasoning. Nick Smith made a point about how the native species had became a large part of New Zealand’s national identity (167). The country had been given an ultimatum to preserve the wildlife that made them who they are or let the invasive species take over. I feel that they are choosing the best option for them, just as America or any other country would in order to maintain the foundation of their identity.

This article gave me a new understanding of what wildlife preservation means. It does not mean to try and save every species. Rather that you sometimes have to protect a species from extinction, even if it means killing others.

-Janay B.

Anonymous said...

My thoughts on the matter are quite controversial. Although the problem would've been thwarted before it got out of hand if they would've stopped using foreign species to make life easier for humans, which would've stopped them from being invasive and killing and hurting humans and native species. Where "we always sat that for us, conservation is all about killing things" (164) The laziness of humans has brought the destruction of the natural balance of nature, and we tend to just eliminating these species we brought in the first place. We should keep things the way they initially were, and humanly dispose of the invasive creatures weather it be by relocation, catch, spade, and release, or euthanizing them.

Dylan B

Anonymous said...

I found the story we read to be very interesting and informal. What I do not understand tho is how you someone can be a conservationist yet steadily kill mammals of any type. I understand that they’re just trying to protect their native fauna before they go extinct but I would think that it would be possible to achieve protection for their animals in another more peaceful way than to poison and exterminate invasive species. Gabriel G.

Mara Bracken said...

My overall perspective of this article was that as long as "man is on this earth, we will continue to try to save or reshape it to keep it inhabitable to life. For example, on page 171, the author talks about the British settlers in the 19th century. He points out that even over 100 years ago humans were trying to save the land, but in their attempt, they didn't truly help as much as they thought.

In prior articles I've read, I have heard about conservation groups introducing mammals into specific state parks, in order to save a certain species. However, in those readings, the act seemed to be a little more controlled due to the fact that it's in a contained area. My thoughts on exterminating certain species to help others are conflicting. While I understand the objective in doing so, how I feel about being the dictation of nature is off-putting.

My final take on this article is that the earth will be in a constant state of having to catch up equilibrium. Meaning, the earth will never be at a point where humans can leave its land to the dictation of nature. While this er on the side of being cynical it is something to think about.

Anonymous said...

Previously, whenever I thought about the conservation of our wildlife I pictured relocating small groups of endangered species and planting tress. What wildlife preservation means in New Zealand is completely different. In the United states if a young kid were to trap a wild animal, a lot of people would probably be pretty concerned. However in New Zealand, kids are encouraged to help trap "invaders."

This article made me realize the potential dangers that could result from humans manipulating nature. In most cases of the initial relocation of animals, it was for the benefit of man and to the deficit of nature, especially the species being relocated. Few animals end up doing well in the new location without doing a large deal of damage to at least one other organism. I hope that based on this truth, from now on our relocation efforts become more thought out, possibly even requiring a public vote and predictions about the outcome of the relocation to be made public before the vote can take place.

Jason A.

Anonymous said...

The article was certainly fascinating, expounding on invasive species, their effects, and methods to get rid of them; yet, just as certainly, I felt the author ignored the most disastrous species - humans. Rodents and other mammals didn't appear on the island by themselves, human settlers brought them over. Human settlers, wanting their new home to be like their old home, brought over mammals without considering the effects. A better solution? Perhaps staying in your old home! It's easy to blame the invasive species for destroying the ecosystem, even though we know they are just acting to their own biology.

A main point in this article is using murder as a means to control population growth. With no real justification, this argument is more than a little hard to swallow. Even harder to swallow? Their assertion of being conservationist (p 164). Inside the US, murder isn't a conservationist value. Google defines conservationist as "a person who advocates or acts for the protection and preservation of the environment and wildlife." In the same way I wouldn't murder my grandchildren for procreating too much, I don't think people in New Zealand should murder their animals just because they're no longer convenient to look at.

Finally, it seems as though they are punishing the evolutionary process for working properly. If we took another species, let's say humans, for example, would we really start killing them off because they are using the resources available to them to survive? I think the answer is no, though I wouldn't leave it up to New Zealand to decide. Further, if invasive species were really so much of a threat, they'd take a bigger look at things like pollution or the entire human population of New Zealand.

Thank you,
Joshua Coleman

Anonymous said...

I didn’t find the article very Interesting but I was shocked to find that there was a conservationist killing animals with ease and almost making it seem like fun. "It writhed and squirmed, as if attempting to rise from the dead."(163), the way he described the animal made me uncomfortable. My stance on hunting, no matter the circumstance, hasn’t changed and I believe we can help preserve certain species without eliminating another. Ronald A.

Linda H. said...

Linda C.

I thought the actions taken to preserve wildlife depicted in the text were so shocking it was almost unbelievable. When I think of wildlife conservation, I imaging people that try to protect the whole environment, instead, this article turns that idea upside down and shows that conservation can also mean protecting only the species that the citizens value. While the extermination methods shown seem very extreme, I can understand why the New Zealand conservationists would resort to such methods. The fact that the invasive mammals are not from New Zealand play a large role, in that the country is continuing to be defiled from colonization's effects. Metaphorically, if someone else's animals are killing your animals, of course there will be a level of apathy when it comes to getting rid of the threat.

Anonymous said...

The treatment of the animals was very alarming to me. I understand why the people of New Zealand wanted to get rid of the invasive animals, but I don’t think that killing them off was the right thing to do.
I’m confused on how the people of New Zealand poison and kill invasive animals, but are still considered to be the most nature-loving nation on the planet (164). I thought it was horrible that they even tried to turn schoolchildren against the animals and called them “Little exterminators” (164-165). Although I don’t like animals, I don’t think that it is right to trap, torture, and kill them.

Alyria B.

Anonymous said...

I believe that the focus on hunting and killing invasive animals is alarming. I feel like it interferes with natural selection and the normal flow of an ecosystem. Getting rid of the invasive animals and the predators allows for potential overpopulation. There's an amount of food and etc, enough for the species. If all the predators and invasive species are taken out of the picture, then there is nothing to keep the population down. As the population of the species increase, so does the potential for famine and etc. Causing species to eventually die off because they cannot provide for themselves. Amani A.

Anonymous said...

This article reshaped my point of view on wild life preservation in many ways. I didn’t realize how so many small creatures are endangered. The article was so in detail on how many people waste money on high-tech killing mechanisms rather then investing in ways to help wildlife. I also didn’t know that New Zealand had so many animals that were unknown to me.
“Conservation is all about killing things”(164). This stuck out to me because their mindset on wildlife is quite alarming. Conserving nature, to me, doesn’t have to result in killing animals. They are a part of nature’s growth and cycle. There isn’t a need to eliminate majority of the animal species to protect the Native Fauna. Overall, this article was quite informative on how another country’s citizens view wildlife and how dangerous it is for small wildlife not just in our country, but other countries as well.
Celeste B.

Anonymous said...

I found that this article was interesting and somewhat alarming. I admired how all of the New Zealanders felt a sense of responsibility to protect these animals from going extinct. I feel that we could use that mindset, in a sense that we should want to take initiative more when it comes to conservation, but I do have an issue with the methods being taken. I understand the process and the thought behind it, but I think its wrong to exterminate any species in order to protect another. The extent to which the conservationists are going is, in my opinion, extreme.

Nadira E.

Anonymous said...

This article help open my eyes to the situation involving these problems with invasive species ruining places. I think we should kill any invasive species that is causing a problem with the current ecosystem or at least stop allowing or put stronger rules on bringing them over. The methods that is being use in New Zealand is necessary to preserve their way of life over there. I also believe that separating endangered species from the things that are killing them is an amazing thing to do and should be implemented everywhere which help species like the eagles and whales expand more and live much longer.


Patrick G.

David D said...

Reading the text, their treatment of the animals is very alarming. I completely understand the want and the need to protect native wildlife, but killing off mass populations of invasive animals wasn’t the right way to go in my opinion. Throughout the text it is stated over an over the fact that the invasive species must die and for New Zealanders to be a bunch of “nature lovers”, their acts discredit their claims. Yes I would like to protect native wildlife too, and yes I understand that a few of the invasive species may lose numbers along the way. But a mass wipeout isn’t how I would go about it.

-David D