Title: Exotic Intruders

Author: Joan Druett

Publication details: Heinemann, 1983, Auckland

Digital publication kindly authorised by: Joan Druett

Part of: New Zealand Texts Collection

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Exotic Intruders

Chapter One — In the beginning

Chapter One
In the beginning

We first met Sylvia on Bangkok Railway Station. One of those marvellous English grandmas, she was 'doing' the world in sensible sandals, with the air of a sturdy and ever-inquisitive Scotch terrier. We shared all sorts of adventures with her, striding through Thai jungles with monkeys shrieking in the treetops, always just ahead, never seen, coping with army checkpoints and stray water buffalo, scorpions in Malaysia and snakes in Penang. We said goodbye to her in Singapore: 'come to New Zealand,' we urged her. 'While you're in this part of the world you shouldn't miss it.'

She came. She 'did' the South Island first, and then we met her at the Hamilton bus station. 'It looks a lot like England,' she told us severely. 'Where did all those poplars come from? What happened to all the native bush you talked about? What was there before all those sheep? And how did those sheep get here, anyway? Who brought out all those English flowers in the gardens? And where did all those sparrows come from?'

We took her to Rotorua. 'Poplars again,' she said. We took her to some native bush. 'Tradescantia,' she said, poking the weed with a scornful toe. 'It grows tidily, in pots, in England, and dies with the first cleansing frost. Who was the idiot who brought it out here? And blackberries. Blackberries all over the place.' 'We spray them,' I said helplessly, 'and it's the thrush that spreads them around, not us.' 'Then why did you bring out the thrush?' she asked.

So, that is what this book is all about: the plants and animals that were brought to New Zealand. Why did they arrive? Who brought them? And how? The acclimatisation of animals and plants is a fascinating subject, and probably one that can be studied in depth only in New Zealand. The native fauna and flora was well catalogued before early settlement because of the scholarship of such early scientists as Banks, Solander and the Forsters, and early introductions are recorded because of the painstaking journals kept by such men as Cook and Crozet. The islands forming New Zealand were isolated for such a long time before their colonisation by man, that the impact of people and their introductions was so much the more dramatic.

The history of the introductions is an account of failures as well as successes. For some of these failures it is difficult to find a plausible reason. For example, while the greenfinch thrived, its cousin the linnet failed to adjust to the different conditions. There are also plants and animals that flourish only because of the interfering hand of man.

An example of this is the guinea pig. Thousands of guinea pigs live and have lived in New Zealand, and can be found today in multitudes of home-made hutches and cardboard cartons in junior classrooms. Hundreds of guinea pigs have made a dash for freedom—and not a single pair has survived to set up a breeding colony. A soft-hearted biology teacher I know set his seventh formers a project of breeding guinea pigs for colour. They started off with four guinea pigs. They finished up with 206.

The naturalist G.M. Thomson suggested that violets may acclimatise better if guinea pigs were encouraged to browse round the plants. He had noticed that the little animals cut down the plants that compete with the violet, but leave the violet plants alone. For a while Thomson had guinea pigs running semi-wild in his Dunedin garden—but still neither the plants or the animals managed to survive in the New Zealand climate without human interference.

The naturalist G.M. Thomson suggested that violets may acclimatise better if guinea pigs were encouraged to browse round the plants. He had noticed that the little animals cut down the plants that compete with the violet, but leave the violet plants alone. For a while Thomson had guinea pigs running semi-wild in his Dunedin garden—but still neither the plants or the animals managed to survive in the New Zealand climate without human interference.

At the end of the year my acquaintance could not bring himself to kill them, so he put them all in his car—the imagination boggles—and took them two hundred kilometres to his seaside bach, where he released them.

He said it was very interesting. At the end of the first summer the hillside was dotted with little burrows, and there seemed to be a lot of activity. But when he returned the next spring the burrows were falling in, and there was not a single sign of page 3 guinea pig life—no cropped vegetation, no droppings in the grass. So, unlike the deer or the opossum, the guinea pig cannot be considered an acclimatised animal. It is a visitor only.

Other imports have thrived beyond all anticipation. There is something wonderful about the soil and climate. In California the radiata pine grows to a mature height of 30 metres. In New Zealand it regularly reaches 56 metres. In other parts of the world brown trout average half to one kilogram in weight. A New Zealand fisherman could expect to catch one of about three to four kilograms. There are many other importations that have responded to New Zealand conditions by growing bigger, faster.

A book about introductions must talk about acclimatisation societies. These bodies of worthy people tried to improve on the early importations of food plants and animals. With enthusiasm unhampered by scientific doubts, their organisations displayed what would be considered now as an alarming fervour for introducing anything that stimulated pleasant memories of their home, including such frivolities as the game animals, birds, deer and fish, that had been socially and financially beyond the reach of all but a favoured few. Deer, songbirds and trout all arrived and changed the face of New Zealand. They provided food, pleasure and profit and many developed into embarrassing problems. More animals were introduced, to try and control the over-aggressive invaders that had come before, often with dire consequences.

Then there were all the accidental invaders, the weeds, the pests, mice, rats and codlin moths. A book on acclimatisation should also look at oddities, the zoos, the financial successes, and then, finally, the situation today: developments such as deer farms, the opossum skin industry, kiwifruit plantations, exotic forests and the constant effort to keep out unplanned exotic invaders.

To the casual eye New Zealand may look 'a lot like England', but everywhere there are reminders that, not very long ago, a very different New Zealand existed before this one. In suburban gardens you find kowhai glowing beside orange azalea, Hoheria growing with dahlias at its feet, and pongas rearing over swimming pools. Beyond towns, in the countryside, there is plenty of evidence that the scenery is very new. Sheep graze in amongst tree-stumps and clumps of toe-toe, finding a little shelter under cabbage trees. Road verges nod with bracken as well as hemlock, ditches are lined with ladder ferns as well as arum lilies, and at the seaside the coast is bright with brilliant pohutukawa red as well as lupin yellow.

They must have remembered, too, the inexhaustibly fertile valleys, and the low shores where tall, graceful palms tossed their plumed heads or bent before the winds.

Marjorie Appleton

The arrival and settlement of the country by the Maori is believed to have taken place about 1000 years ago. Whether the discovery and settlement of Aotearoa by the Maori people was accidental or planned, the immigrants could hardly have been aware that by adopting this country as their homeland, they were putting themselves at real risk of death by starvation.

They found themselves in a beautiful, mild, but nevertheless inhospitable land. As recently as 1826, D'Urville described the curious lifelessness of the New Zealand landscape. 'No birds, no insects, no reptiles even,' he wrote, 'this complete absence of any living creature and the unbroken silence create a solemn, almost sinister atmosphere. Going through these gloomy solitary places, one felt as if one were transported to that point in time when nature, having produced the members of the vegetable kingdom, still waited for the decree of the Eternal, to bring forth the living creatures.'

With investigation the Polynesian explorers would have found a wealth of life, but no grazing mammals to kill and eat, no familiar vegetables, no substantial tubers to put into the oven.

These first people must have remembered with nostalgia the vegetation of the islands they had left behind, with their coconuts and other fruits that flourished there. In this new country the diet became limited to fish, small birds, berries and fernroots. The fernroots (actually bracken rhizomes) had to be grubbed out, cleaned, pounded, soaked, beaten, picked over for fibre and then cooked.

One suspects that the Maori then would have been somewhat in sympathy with the acclimatisation societies of the 1860s. They did make attempts to introduce some of their food plants, and managed to establish a gourd, a species of taro, a type of puha, and the kumara. Maori tradition has it that the karaka (Corynocarpus laevigata) was introduced at the same time as the taro and the ti (a sort of palm with an edible root) about 500 years ago, by Roua. The karaka tree is common in the Kermadec Islands, and may have come from there. It was introduced for its edible berries, which are poisonous when raw, but tasty when baked.

The people had to learn how to store the kumara, because of the very short harvest time. Kumara, taro and fernroots were stored in pits. Fish was dried to last through the winter. Birds were preserved by being roasted, packed into gourds, and sealed with boiling fat. But in spite of all these skills, they lived very near the edge of want.

For a long time it was considered that the moa, a giant browsing bird, that had the same place in the ecosystem that the sheep took over later, was extinct long before the Maori arrived. However it is now apparent that the Maori did know the moa, and indeed knew it very well. Maori campsites and middens have been found strewn with moa bones, together with human, fish and seal bones, and moa bone ornaments have been found in Maori graves. Empty moa eggs were used to carry water.

It was probably because of the moa that much of the forest cover of the South Island was destroyed. The Maoris lit great fires there, in the end removing all the trees so that the open tussock country developed. The burning could have been to drive out the moa from shelter. The South Island Maoris have a tradition that when the Te Rapuwai tribes spread over the South Island, Invercargill was submerged by water, the forests of Canterbury and Otago were destroyed by fire, and the moa was exterminated. When it went, a major source of protein food was gone.

Before colonisation by the Maori people, New Zealand had only two native land mammals, the bats Chalinolobus and Mystacops. These animals were about the size of mice, and were both bush dwellers, usually seen only at twilight as they chased insects over the rivers and lakes. There are no traditions that they were ever eaten for page 5 food. The Maoris introduced two more mammals—the kiore or Polynesian rat, and the kuri, or Polynesian dog.

Crozet described the Polynesian dog in 1772. 'The dogs are a sort of domesticated fox, quite black or white, very low on the legs, straight ears, thick tail, long body, and uttering the same cry; they do not bark like our dogs; they were always treacherous, and bit us frequently. They would have been dangerous to keep where poultry was raised or had to be protected: they would destroy them just like foxes.'

Forster, writing in Queen Charlotte Sound in 1773, said, 'The food which these dogs receive is fish, or the same as their masters live on, who afterwards eat their flesh and employ the fur in various ornaments and dresses ... (they) sent to the captain one half of it; this day therefore we dined for the first time on a leg of it roasted, which tasted so exactly like mutton that it was indistinguishable.'

Few can live altogether on ship puddings, dumplings, or the like, without being sensible of an oppression and uneasiness.

—James Lind, Naval Surgeon

When Captain Cook, in 1769, made his first landing in the country he, like the Maori people, found indigenous food hard to locate. Since the Endeavour had been at sea for two months since leaving its last landfall of Tahiti, the ship was running very low on fresh water and fresh food. All good sea captains were aware that the dreaded disease of sea-scurvy was related in some way to diet; some blamed the large amounts of salt meat, some blamed the stale drinking water, but all were aware that scurvy could be cured or prevented by stocking up with fresh provisions. It was common knowledge that citrus fruit cured and prevented scurvy; the problem was knowing how to store the fruit or its juice.

Because of this ships of that time were accustomed to picking up fresh food wherever landfall was made; as bizarre as some of the fresh foods might have appeared to be, the officers were prepared to try them out on the crews in hope that losses from scurvy might be diminished. Cook took an intense interest in the diet of his men, and was justifiably proud when the Endeavour completed its first journey without the loss of a single man from scurvy. 'In justice to the officers and the whole crew,' he wrote, 'I must say they have gone through the fatigues and dangers of the whole voyage with that cheerfulness and alertness that will always do honour to British seamen, and I have the satisfaction to say that I have not lost one man by sickness during the whole voyage.'

To keep away the disease, Cook used sauerkraut, portable broth, and some orange and lemon juice. Portable soup was a kind of concentrated beef extract, rather like Oxo, invented by a Mrs Dubois in 1756, and it was successful because it helped to make porridge of wheat, peas, and various fresh vegetables and grasses more palatable. However fresh vegetables, eaten raw if possible, were the best antiscorbutics available. So, on that Saturday the 7th October, 1769, Cook was very keen to land a party and replenish the ship's supplies. But they were unlucky at Poverty Bay, named so 'because it afforded us no one thing we wanted.'

At two o'clock in the afternoon, August 26 1768, the Endeavour sailed from her anchorage in Plymouth Harbour. She was carrying 94 persons, 10 carriage guns, 12 swivels with ammunition, provisions and stores for 18 months, a goat, and two greyhounds, tethered by the windlass.

At two o'clock in the afternoon, August 26 1768, the Endeavour sailed from her anchorage in Plymouth Harbour. She was carrying 94 persons, 10 carriage guns, 12 swivels with ammunition, provisions and stores for 18 months, a goat, and two greyhounds, tethered by the windlass.

After this unsuccessful expedition Cook decided to sail south, to chart the coastline and, if possible, replenish his supplies. At Tolaga Bay he purchased 5 or 6 kilograms of kumara, and experimented with the local flora. He found that the leaves of the manuka could be used for an antiscorbutic tea, and collected 'sellery' (Apium australe) and scurvy grass (Lepidium oleraceum, a kind of cress). He wrote, 'This is found here in great plenty and I have caused it to be boil'd with Portable Soup and Oatmeal every morning for the Peoples breakfast, and this I design to continue as long as it will last or any is to be got because I look upon it to be very wholesome and a great Antiscorbutick.' The men didn't like it, but Cook was a strong disciplinarian.

page 7
Engraving of Captain James Cook

When Cook was given the command of the Endeavour, he was known as a quietly competent seaman, gifted in matters of navigation and chart-making. All his commanding officers had spoken well of him. After his first journey in the vessel, he also came to be famous—or notorious—for insisting at all times on cleanliness, the airing and fumigation at regular intervals of all quarters of the ship, and the complete and annotated consumption of antiscorbutics by all of his crew.

Cook was a big man, tall and built wide to match. His eyes, by all accounts, were cool and self-contained. That this man was human is recorded by a rather priggish young Swede, Sparrman, who was a botanist on the second voyage. 'Even in my anxiety,' wrote Sparrman, 'I drew no small satisfaction from observing the rapidity and lack of confusion with which each command was executed to save the ship ... I should have preferred, however,' he added in lofty tones, 'to hear fewer 'Goddams' from the officers and particularly the Captain, who, while the danger lasted, stamped about the deck and grew hoarse with shouting.'

Because of the general preoccupation with fresh food and scurvy, many sea captains had the habit of planting and sowing vegetables at any island they visited. Accordingly, Cook may have planted a garden on that first journey, but if he did there is no record of it. He wrote in his Journal that it was the opinion of everyone on board that 'all sorts of European grain, fruits and plants would thrive in New Zealand, and that industrious settlers would soon succeed' in growing sufficient food for feasting as well as day-to-day eating. Ship's rats may have got ashore, because of his habit of anchoring close into shore and throwing out a hawser, but the voyage was one of exploration only, as far as New Zealand was concerned, and there is no record of any deliberate introductions of flora or fauna.

In December that same year a French expedition, under Jean de Surville, landed in Doubtless Bay. The ship's crew was extremely sick with scurvy, so gifts of fish and vegetables from the Maoris were very welcome. Most of the sailors recovered, but some died and were buried in the Bay. De Surville, observing the limited diet of the Maori people, presented the local chief with a pair of hogs, explaining to him that they should not be killed, but be allowed to breed.

page 8

Cook's cook

James Cook's cook was another James, James Thompson. James Thompson had only one hand, but managed somehow to cope with a procession of bizarre foods. He also had to put up with a captain who was obsessed with the diet of the men, and who was always ready to instruct his cook to conduct all sorts of experiments in the hope of preventing scurvy. These included a new method of salting pork, boiling down spruce tips to make a sort of beer, and serving sauerkraut, a dish the men detested. In New Zealand Thompson had to devise ways of cooking kumara and fern roots, and make edible dishes out of 'wild sellery' and scurvy grass.

Cook was no gourmet, and made no demands for his own table that he didn't make for his men, but the scientist he carried was different. Banks liked a sauce made with 'the kernels of cocoanuts,' he wrote in his Journal, 'fermented until they dissolve into a buttery paste, and beaten up with salt water.' Banks disliked ship's biscuits heartily, asserting that they were infested with five sorts of vermin, which gave food a strong taste of mustard. However he did enjoy a dish made out of seasquirts. He was also partial to a jelly made from boiled fishheads, sea eggs, sturgeon, sharks' tails, squid and dried stingray. Banks reckoned that one of the best soups he ever ate was made from a very dead cuttlefish that had been pulled to pieces by birds. He also liked stingray tripes and kangaroo.

Because of the efforts of his cook and his own ingenuity, James Cook was able to declare, in a letter to the Admiralty dated 23rd October 1770, that he had not lost one man by sickness during the whole of the voyage. Sadly, after this date many of his men were to die, sick of dysentery contracted in Java. Cook wrote, on the 26th December, 'We came here with as healthy a ships company as need (go) to sea and after a stay of not quite 3 Months lift it in the condition of Hospital Ship.'

On the journey to England 23 people died on board. One of them was the cook, James Thompson, on the 31st January 1771.

In 1772 another French expedition, under du Fresne, did record introducing European seeds. Crozet wrote, 'I formed a garden on Moutouro Island,' and he listed the seeds that were planted: fruit trees, wheat, millet, maize, and other vegetables and grains. He said, 'I planted stones and pips wherever I went, in the plains, in the glens, on the slopes, and even on the mountains; I also sowed everywhere a few of the different varieties of grain, and most of the officers did the same.'

page 9
Portrait of Tobias Furneaux

Lieutenant Tobias Furneaux was an excellent seaman, very experienced; he had been second lieutenant on the Dolphin, under Wallis—so he had had previous acquaintance with Cook's famous goat, which went round the world on the Dolphin and then immediately went round again with Cook on his second voyage, without her udder running dry. Furneaux did not enjoy his stint in the Adventure. He was unused to Whitby ships and couldn't get the knack of tacking her. He also found his Captain rather intimidating: never before had he served under a man who was so single-mindedly devoted to cleanliness, vitamin C, good housekeeping and establishing gardens in eccentric places. Furneaux' cook, a certain Mahoney, was no help at all in maintaining this odd regime, falling down on the job to the extent of dropping dead. According to the astronomer Bayly, Mahoney 'died of the Scurvy, he being so indolent and dirtily inclined there was no possibility of making him keep himself clean, or even to come on deck to breathe the fresh air.'

On his second voyage to New Zealand, in 1773, Cook wrote to Lieutenant Furneaux, his colleague on the Adventure, 'Whereas scurvey grass, sellery, and other vegitables are to be found in most uncultivated countrys, especially in New Zealand, and when boil'd with wheat or oatmeal, with a proper quantity of portable broth, makes a very wholesome and nourishing diet, and has been found.to be of great use against all scorbutick complaints ... you are therefore hereby required and directed, whenever vegitables are to be got, to cause a sufficient quantity to be boil'd with the usual allowance of wheat or oatmeal and portable broth . . . ' He and Furneaux also brewed beer of leaves of the rimu and manuka trees by 'boiling them three or four hours, or untill the bark will strip with ease from the branches, then take the leaves or branches out . . . and mix with the liquor the proper quantity of Melasses and Inspissated Juice ... put in a little grounds of Beer or yeast and in a few days the Beer will be fit to drink . . . ' The experiment was a great success: the 'Beer was exceeding Palatable and esteemed by everyone on board.'

Cook had not forgotten the observations he had made on his first journey, that there were no 'four footed animals' or easily harvested food in New Zealand. In Goose Cove he liberated five geese, writing in his Journal, 'I make no doubt that they will breed, and may in time spread over the whole country, and fully answer my intention in leaving them.' His confidence was unjustified, as no sign of the geese was ever seen again. Perhaps wekas tapped their eggs and ate them.

Cook also planted seeds at Dusky Bay, on Astronomers Point. In a rehearsal of what was to come, he 'in the evening set fire to the top wood &ca that was on a part of the ground we had occupied ... and in the morning dug it up and sowed in it several sorts of seeds . . .' As far as can be told, the seeds failed to germinate.

Cook's colleague, Lieutenant Furneaux, landed at Queen Charlotte Sound in the Adventure, and liberated a boar and two breeding sows. At Ship Cove Cook put ashore a ram and a ewe. On 23rd May 1773 he wrote, sadly, 'Last Night the Ewe and Ram I had with so much care and trouble brought to this place, died, we did suppose that they were poisoned by eating of some poisonous plant, thus all my fine hopes of stocking this Country with a breed of Sheep were blasted in a moment.' About ten days later Cook, Furneaux and the botanist Johann Forster were rowed over to East Bay where they put ashore a male and female goat. Cook wrote, 'There is no great danger that the Natives will destroy them as they are exceedingly afraid of both . . . The Goats will undoubtedly take to the Mountains and the Hoggs to the Woods where there is plenty of food for both.' The fear of the goats could have stemmed from an event that Cook noted with humour: a small Maori boy had come on board and had been given a shirt. The lad was so pleased with his new appearance that he paraded around the ship, to receive his comeuppance when the goat promptly butted him in his bottom.

Six months later, in November 1773, Cook was able to survey the results of the first attempt by Europeans to acclimatise mammals into New Zealand. He found one of Lieutenant Furneaux' sows in Indian Cove, lame but well, but the boar and other sow had been taken away, and the two goats, he was told, had been eaten. Cook wrote, 'Thus all our endeavours for stocking this Country with usefull Animals are likely to be frustrated by the very people whom we meant to serve.' It must have been most disheartening. Cook had been brought up on a farm, and was obviously skilled with page 11 animals: those goats and pigs had survived arduous journeys, including a detour into the Antarctic, only to come to this end. On Monday 21st November he took some more animals secretly into the bush and liberated them where he hoped the Maoris would not find them. 'I took four Hogs, three sows and one boar, two hens and three cocks and carried them a little way into the woods in the very bottom of West Bay where I left them as much food as would serve them a week or ten days. This I did in order to keep them in the woods, Lest they should come down to the shore in search of food and be discovered by the natives.1



Wild goats in the hills at the back of LakeTutira, Hawkes Bay.

Wild goats in the hills at the back of LakeTutira, Hawkes Bay.

During this visit to Queen Charlotte Sound Cook also tried to acclimatise some plants. He had observed that the Maoris there, unlike the North Island tribes, did not have plantations of kumara and taro, which of course did not thrive in the cooler climate. He therefore saw the importance of providing the Maoris with a root vegetable which could successfully be grown in a colder region. George Forster wrote, 'Captain Cook, who was determined to omit nothing which might tend to the preservation of European garden-plants in this country, prepared the soil, sowed seeds and transplanted the young plants in four or five different parts of this Sound. He had cultivated a spot of ground on the beach of Long Island, another in the Hippah rock, two more on Motu-aro, and one of considerable extent at the bottom of Ship Cove, where our vessels lay at anchor. He chiefly endeavoured to raise such vegetables as have useful and nutritive roots, and among them particularly potatoes, page 12 of which we had been able to preserve but few in a state of vegetation. He had like-wise sown corn of several sorts, beans, kidney beans, and pease, and devoted the latter part of his stay in great measure to these occupations.' Cook had also sown turnip, cabbage, white mustard, radish, purslane, parsley, carrot, parsnip, onion and leek. Of these, the cabbage, potato, turnip, onion and leek became established.

Cook had to interest the Maoris in the tending of his gardens, so on Sunday the 29th May he took a Maori chief over to Motoara and 'show'd him the Potatoes planted there by Mr Fannen the Master of the A dventure which he had brought from the Cape of Good Hope, there seems to be no doubt of their succeeding as they were in a very thriving state, the man was so pleased with them that he immidiately began to hough (hoe) the earth about the plants ... I next carried him to the other of Captain Furneaux's gardens (this gentleman being with me) I explaned to him as well as I could the nature of Turnips, Carrots & Parsnips roots together with Potatoes that will be of more use to them than all the other vegetables

When Cook returned to Queen Charlotte Sound in November 1773, he found that his garden had flourished, but not through the careful tending of the Maoris, as the natives neglected them entirely, except to dig up the potatoes. George Forster reported, 'We found all the radishes and turneps shot into seed, the cabbages and carrots were very fine, an abundance of onions and parsley in good order; the peas and beans were almost entirely lost, and seemed to have been destroyed by rats. The potatoes were likewise all extirpated; but, from appearances, we guessed this to have been the work of the natives.'

When Cook returned again, in October 1774, he saw a sow on Long Island, and the Forsters heard a pig squeal in the bush at West Bay. Cook put two more pigs ashore, and wrote, 'Sence the Natives did not destroy these Hogs when in their possession, we cannot suppose they will attempt it now, so that there is little fear but that this Country will soon be stocked with these Animals, both in a wild and domestic state.' He also examined his vegetable gardens, and found that at Motuara 'allmost in a state of Nature and had been wholly neglected by the Inhabitants, nevertheless many Articles were in a flourishing state.'

On the 30th July 1775 Cook arrived back in Britain, 'Having been absent from England Three Years and Eighteen Days, in which time I lost but four men, and one only from sickness—and that not scurvy'—and having completed the first deliberate program of acclimatisation of exotic plants and animals in New Zealand.

From Cook's plantings the cabbage has spread all round New Zealand, becoming entirely acclimatised, to the extent of producing seed and dispersing readily. The Maoris undoubtedly had a hand in this initial colonisation, as in 1828 the mate of the brig Hawes found many Maori cultivations with cabbage in them. When Commander Bellinghausen visited Motauro in 1820, he was able to gather 'such a quantity of wild cabbage that we had sufficient for one meal of cabbage soup for all the servants and officers.' Major Cruise, also writing in 1820, said, ' ... the excellent plants left by Captain Cook, viz., Cabbages, turnips, carrots, etc., are still numerous but very degenerated.' The botanist Dieffenbach, who visited the area in 1839, wrote,'... the cabbage, which now abounds in Queen Charlotte Sound, and which grows wild, was in blossom, and covered the sides of the hills, with a yellow carpet.' He found cabbages growing wild all over the Cook Strait area, and plantations of cabbages page 13 thriving on Kapiti Island. The early settler Bidwill, when travelling in the Tauranga area found that the Maoris gathered wild cabbages, which they boiled as a vegetable. Turnips were almost as successful, the Maoris growing them in their gardens and taking them around the country.

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The kune kune pig

There were at least three kinds of pigs liberated in New Zealand by the early explorers. The 'Captain Cooker' was black, with a very long snout and a razor back, originally of the Tamworth variety, built for speed rather than for beauty. Then there was the Berkshire variety, a stouter breed of pig. These interbred readily, and then intermixed again with the domestic pigs that the colonists brought. Their offspring soon lost the domestic flavour, tasting more like venison than pork.

The third type introduced before organised settlement was most unusual—the little round animal called the kune kune pig. Dieffenbach in 1843 wrote, 'New Zealand pigs are a peculiar breed, with short heads and legs and compact bodies.' Obviously he was not talking about the Captain Cooker variety, which could never lay claim to a 'compact body.'

Kune kune pig

Kune kune pig

The kune kune was of the old Poland China breed, standing only 60 cm at the shoulder. Even in maturity it resembled nothing so much as a piglet after an excess of greediness. It arrived first in 1805, when Governor King presented 26 sows and 4 boars to a Maori chief in the Bay of Islands. The tribe adopted the undeniably cute little animals with enthusiasm, so that they became pets for their children and status symbols as well as a much appreciated food source. The Maoris gave the animals away at ceremonial feasts but were very crafty about it, gifting the boars to a tribe distant in one direction and the sows to people in the other, and thus retaining the breeding monopoly.

This pig, as well as being an asset to any Maori village, became the subject of a joke. When Dieffenbach expressed an interest in the small animals, he was told solemnly that when the pigs first arrived, the people mistook them for horses, and therefore, sadly, the first two were ridden to death before the error was realised. Dieffenbach was famous for his credulity, but it is amazing that even he swallowed this anecdote. A sense of humour was evident in the naming of the pig. The word 'kune kune' means 'fat round belly'.

page 14page 15

Cook had liberated pigs in both the South Island and in the North Island, at Cape Kidnappers. It is now commonly believed that all the wild pigs in New Zealand are descended from the 'Captain Cookers' released by Cook and Furneaux. After Cook's departure the Maoris became very enthusiastic pork eaters: not surprising, in view of the limited range of protein food available then. They were often used as barter, or as war reparations after episodes of tribal fighting. The art of cooking them in a hangi was quickly learned, so that pork became an essential part of any feast. Pork which had been fed on fernroot was considered to be more delicate and delicious than any other. Pork was among the first items sold to the whaling stations set up in the 1820s, and to the settlers that started arriving in the late 1830s. The retail of pork became organised to the extent that groups of men called 'pork traders' used to travel around with the express purpose of finding Maoris willing to sell large quantities of pork, which the traders bought for re-sale to the settlers.

Captain Cooker pig

Captain Cooker pig

The Maoris adopted the European dog and trained it for pig-hunting. Pork was also salted, and sold to sea captains, packed in wooden pork chests. Despite this brisk trade in pig-meat, the animal still flourished, and the first telegraph poles had to be protected from being rubbed down by pigs. On one pig drive in the southern Taranaki, in the last years of the century, over a thousand pigs were killed.

The potato was adopted with equal enthusiasm. In 1813 Captain Williams reported that at the Bluff he saw Maori potato plantations of considerably more than 40 hectares in size. Captain Fowler on the Matilda was anchored for eleven days in the Otago harbour in the same year, and he bought potatoes from the natives. Samuel Marsden, when he arrived in 1814, was very impressed with the native cultivations.

'The flat where the natives were encamped,' he wrote, 'might contain somewhat about a hundred acres or more, part of which was enclosed and planted with potatoes. We were furnished with a good supply of potatoes and pork.' Commander Bellinghausen said in 1820, 'At present the New Zealander also grows potatoes which are as good as the English species. They learned to grow this vegetable from Captain Cook.'

For this to be written forty-seven years after Cook's efforts in Queen Charlotte Sound, is a real testimony of Cook's success in changing the life of the Maori people. It is certainly understandable that the Maori should have adopted the potato so readily. At long last he had a staple food that was easy to grow, kept well, was reliable, and was tasty and nourishing. Darwin wrote in 1835, 'The introduction of the potato has been the most essential benefit to the island; it is now much more used than any native vegetable.'
Pig judging at Ruakura: 'Here be a fine sow, Albert.'

Pig judging at Ruakura: 'Here be a fine sow, Albert.'

This be a better one, Henr—y—y—y.'

This be a better one, Henr—y—y—y.'

page 16 The strong base of acclimatisation had been built by Cook, and it was then the turn of the whalers and sealers to extend it. On d'Urville's visit to Port Pegasus in 1832 he found that twenty Englishmen had settled on the shores of Foveaux Strait, where they had married native women and were growing potatoes and other vegetables. Many of the whalers, when they retired, settled down with a Maori wife (or wives) and grew orchards and gardens from seed they imported, catching wild pigs and rearing some domesticated pigs and fowls. Jerningham Wakefield wrote, in 1839, 'The best man is one who retires, after his 'spree', to the village where the tribe of his native woman reside, and spends the summer cultivating a bit of land given to him by the natives ... I have heard more than one declare, as he showed me his neat patch of wheat, or promising fruit trees, that "he had had enough of whaling" (and) should "let those fag that would next year" ...' In this way the Maoris were taught the basics of European-style agriculture, and more fruits and vegetables were introduced as well.

Domestic pets were also introduced in this manner. Cook's ships had cats, as cats were kept against the constant plague of ship's rats. A midshipman in one of Cook's ships, according to Beaglehole, 'had a favourite cat who never failed to catch and carry rats to her master: he divided the prey so that the cat had the fore part, and the back part was cleaned, roasted, and peppered for himself.' However there is no record of Cook leaving a cat in New Zealand. Whalers and sealers had cats as pets, and the fact that some of the cats met the same fate as Cook's midshipman's rats is recorded; in that Major Cruise, during his visit to New Zealand on the Dromedary in 1820, was offered a cat as food to cook and eat, by a friendly native.

The dog was brought in by the whalers and sealers, and was quickly adopted for pig-hunting. The Polynesian dog also adopted the European dog, with the result that the Polynesian dog did not so much die out as get bred out: the animals interbred with European dogs so quickly and thoroughly that the Polynesian characteristics became lost. The tastiness was apparently the first feature to go, and the Maoris gave up eating dogs very quickly. Dieffenbach wrote, 'The native dog was formerly considered a dainty, and great numbers of them were eaten; but the breed having undergone an almost complete mixture with the European (dog), their use as an article of food has been discontinued, as the European dogs are said by the natives to be perfectly unpalatable.'

When organised European settlement began, many dogs were brought into the country as pets. These, and their progeny, and the Maori dog-European dog half-breeds, contributed to the packs of wild dogs that terrorised parts of the country in the early years. In Marlborough, according to G.M. Thomson, wild dogs were so common at one time that a bounty of £5 per head was paid for their extermination.

As the country became more densely settled, the wild dogs were gradually killed off, until they were all exterminated. Any wild dogs seen nowadays are from modern strays and dogs dumped by unfeeling owners.

The goat was another successful mammal introduced by Cook. He liberated a pair at East Bay, Queen Charlotte Sound, in 1777, to replace the original two that he had landed in 1773, that had been eaten. It is now commonly believed that most of the goats in the South Island in the early days of settlement are descended from this pair.

page 17


There is no record of the first introduction of cats into New Zealand, but they were probably present from the earliest days of settlement by the whalers and sealers. Since then many cats have managed to live in a wild state. Wild cats were reported in Auckland province by Dieffenbach in 1843. Later goldminers, surveyors, shepherds and the work gangs that set up public works camps carried cats as pets all around the country. In the 1870s, with the alarming spread of the rabbit, many pastoral farmers bought up large number of cats and released them in rabbit-infested country. Gardner, in 'The Amuri', wrote that in 1885 a Mr Acton-Adams 'secured over 200 cats from Christchurch for Tarndale. It is said that he paid 2s 6d. a head for them in Papanui, but that the venture was not a success. One wagon load was drowned in the Clarence River crossing: the rest were too tame for the unnatural high-country task.' Cats that did survive wild in this country were said to attain a very great size. The interesting observation was also made that when cats became feral they reverted to the original tabby-grey colour.

The cats probably did do a great deal to reduce rabbit numbers, but this has gone unstudied and therefore unmeasured. However a study of ferrets carried out in rabbit-infested country in the Wairarapa has some bearing on the hunting efficiency of cats. Gibb and Flux reported observations being carried out in an enclosure, 8.5 hectares in size, that supported a population of over a thousand rabbits. Three or four feral cats and six ferrets had free access to this area, and reduced the population of rabbits to 13 in three and a half years. The scientists noted that the cats and the ferrets exhibited division of territory, with the cats hunting above ground and the ferrets hunting in the burrows.

The numbers of feral cats have fallen considerably since the laying of poison for rabbits and opossums, and some have been caught in gin traps. The blame for depredations on native birdlife has been firmly placed at their door by many scientists. Turbott (1947) theorised that the saddleback on Little Barrier Island disappeared because of cats, which is borne out by the fact that there are plenty of saddlebacks on Hen Island where there are no wild cats. The Stephens Island wren was wiped out by the lighthousekeeper's cat. F. Cain found a broadleaf stump in 1948 where kittens nested in amongst feathers and wings of fantails, tomtits, white-eyes and other small native birds. However no acclimatisation societies pay bonuses for the destruction of feral cats, even though they are known to take young pheasants and quail.

The population of wild cats is constantly being reinforced by the dumping of unwanted cats in the countryside or even in the native bush. If this practice ceased then depredations on bird life, both native and exotic, would be much reduced.

The question arises how Cook managed to carry animals so successfully on his long voyages in the cramped shipping of that time. Indeed, he was more than successful; one of his shipboard goats became famous: she was a milk goat that circumnavigated the world twice without going dry. Not only did Cook manage to save his own men from scurvy by the application of enlightened theories of diet and a willingness to experiment with the few foodstuffs that the country offered; he managed also to page 18 vastly improve the life of the Maori people. In his mere 100 days in New Zealand he brought the Maori back from the ever-present threat of starvation. It is to Cook, more than any other, that New Zealand owes the establishment of plants and certain animals for food.


The goat has acclimatised very readily to New Zealand conditions, because of the natural adaptive abilities of the animal. The domestic goat originated from the wild goats of the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East, and can still very rapidly lose all traces of domestication and revert to the wild state.

There were three main reasons for the liberation of goats in New Zealand. Cook first released them to provide an emergency food supply in a country that was evidently very short of natural food. For the same reason other sea captains placed goats on outlying islands, to provide food for castaways. Similarly in later years herds of goats were carried around by prospectors and public works camps.

The second reason became apparent when a number of Angora goats were introduced by the Auckland, Canterbury and Otago Acclimatisation Societies in the 1860s. A trade in the hair was hoped for, and also some anticipated a trade in the skins. Later on, goats were liberated as a form of biological control, to keep down the spread of blackberry and other weeds. The idea was that the goats would clear scrubland sufficiently for the establishment of sheep grazing.

Goat populations built up rapidly from the first few feral goats. Recent evidence of this phenomenon has been reported by Mr Welch, of Mount Bruce, Masterton. In 1943, 80 to 100 goats were liberated on Maori land near Mauriceville, to control blackberry. They entered the State Forest Reserve nearby and soon established themselves. In 1946 an attempt was made to count the goats, and they were found in many herds of between 30 and 60 animals, despite wholesale shooting by the local residents.

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