Why not farm weka?

When Central Otago farmer Gerry Eckhoff was an Act MP he suggested changing the law to allow kiwi farming.

He pointed out that farmed animals don’t number among the endangered species;  and it would be better for the future survival rate of the birds and relieve the taxpayer of a cost if farmers looked after kiwi than leaving their fate to DOC and nature.

The idea of farming another native species, the weka, has now been raised by Roger Beattie.

Federated Farmers is supportive. Game spokesman Donald Aubrey said:

It’s ironic that the Chatham Islands take a far more enlightened view to the consumption of weka and to the farming of trout.  Crazily, despite having one of the world’s most easily farmed and popular fish to consume, mainland New Zealand treats an introduced species as being more of a native than our native eels.

“It’s time to unleash our entrepreneurs, represented by Mr Beattie. Domesticating some native species – aquatic or terrestrial – actually removes pressure off the wild populations.

“I see Roger Beattie as being in the same mould as the likes of Sir Peter Jackson and Weta’s Richard Taylor.  Those two were told a big budget Hollywood film would never be filmed in New Zealand but have proved the naysayers wrong.

“Roger Beattie is told can’t but he replies can and without any subsidies too.  Let’s face it, if the weka was instead a turkey, it would make us look like one for not trying,” Mr Aubrey concluded. 

I agree.

We need to stop being precious about native species, it will be better for the birds and the economy.

Trout aren’t native to New Zealand and the arguments against farming them hold as little water as those against farming weka.

Offsetting Behaviour  is unimpressed that vague unease enables the idea to be vetoed and Roarprawn gives a guide to how some native birds taste.

4 Responses to Why not farm weka?

  1. scrubone says:

    It’s a brilliant idea. Saw him some time ago on Country Calender.

    I read an article once about applying a similar idea in Africa. Small villages were encouraged to treat the wild animals as their own, as though they were their own farm animals. Rich foreigners would then come in and bag an elephant or such.

    The advantage of this is that the locals actually knew which ones could be killed (e.g. the old and sick) while still growing the population. It meant that they were the best ones to keep poachers out, since they knew the ground and it gave them money to improve themselves in real ways, such as building fences to deal with the real problem – elephants trampling their crops.

    So instead of conducting a losing fight against the locals, the animals were an asset to them, and numbers grew as a result.

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  2. david winter says:

    It’s not quite as easy as all that. Sheep, cows and wheat might not be endangered but they are also not mouflin, aurochs (extinct) and einkorn.

    Moreover, it isn’t clear to me (not a conservation biologist) that farming weka would have any conservation benefits. The reason you don’t see more weka on the mainland isn’t a lack of birds to translocate (they have to culled on the Chathams) it’s lack of suitable habitat. They are eaten by mustelids, out-competed by introduced pests and don’t do well in forests that are grazed by deer and the like. If Beattie wants to make an economic case that we should farm weka then he should, he should just leave conservation out of it.

    Farming endangered species make a lot more sense in cases like Bluefin Tuna in which demand for a severely overstocked fish could be satisfied sustainably.

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  3. @david: If there’s a risk of extinction in the wild, isn’t there conservation benefit to having a farmed stock available for restocking of the wild when and if pest problems in the wild ever are solved?

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  4. david winter says:

    Hi Eric,

    There really isn’t much of risk of extinction in the wild. There is a big population on the Chathams and all the current mainland birds descend from that one (so there is little concern about maintaining genetic diversity from different populations).

    I guess you could argue having a farmed population as a second back up is a good thing but I don’t think it’s a high priority for DoC

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