Thursday, 23 May 2013

Blogging Challenge Day 3: The Stephen Island Wren

This post I am doing to highlight the danger of introducing foreign species anywhere. I'm quite aware that my last one was way, way, way, way, way too long, and that many of you despaired of reading it. Ah well. I'll try to keep this one short.
The Stephen Island Wren. It used to be only one of three flightless songbirds in the world. Once a widespread inhabitant of New Zealand, the arrival of the Maori drove it to only one small population on an isolated island: you guessed it, Stephen Island. This was the fault of another introduced species, the Polynesian riat, or kiore. Using the IUCN Red List rating, it would probably already have been Critically Endangered by then. It did have one thing in its favor, though: Stephen Island was totally isolated. Until the lighthouse came. Boats kept passing by, and they needed some way to guide them. So they built a lighthouse on Stephen Island in 1894, and some people came to live there as lighthouse keeper. Innocent enough, except the problem is, they brought Tibbles.
Tibbles can go down in history as the cat that vanquished a species. If Tibbles could talk to us now, what she would probably say was: "Veni, Vidi, Vici." (I came, I saw, I conquered) And conquer she did. Pregnant when she came to the island, allowed to roam wild, a single year after she arrived the Stephen Island wren was extinct, and there was quite a healthy colony (but not healthy for other species) of feral cats, all descendents of the great Tibbles, thriving on the island.
It was 1925 before they managed to exterminate all the cats from the island.
Can you see the dangers of foreign species? If one day, you ever venture to an alien place: just one warning. Don't bring your cat. Or your rat. Or your dog. Or your hog. Or your lice. Or your mice. Cause then you just might exterminate a race. Like Tibbles did.

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