Monday, May 30, 2016

The Moose in Te Anau

Milford Sound, New Zealand (Jun 3, 2008)

In total we spent two nights in Te Anau. The first night we visited the glowworm caves, and the second we recovered the photos almost lost in the "boat accident" at Milford Sound. In both cases we had been late for dinner, and survived on our daily fix of chips and fish at the local pub “The Moose”.

Eglinton Valley
You may ask: why anybody would want to name a pub “The Moose” in the New Zealand South Island? Well, we found the explanation in a journal framed on the pub walls: some people in Te Anau do believe that there are moose in the wild forests of Fiordland. The story goes like this. In 1909 the Canadian government agreed to capture 17 moose calves to be shipped to New Zealand. The 10 calves that survived the trip where then released at Supper Cove, Dusky Sound, in April 1910, with the hope to create a local population of moose to allow future big game hunting. This was the second time Canada actually agreed to give moose to New Zealand. A first attempt in 1900 failed when all the shipped animals, minus one female, died during the trip. The surviving semi-tame cow never left for the forest, frequenting for the next 14 years the streets of the local settlements. The calves of 1910, instead thrived in their new home, to the point that in 1920 hunting licenses were issued. Two animals were killed between 1929 and 1934, but in the subsequent years the moose were forgotten, even though there are records of other animals killed in the 1950s. In 1972 there was a survey attempting to quantify the size of the surviving population, but no animal was found, leading to the conclusion that the moose had gone extinct due to the competition with red deers (another imported species, that had multiplied beyond measure completely destroying the local forest ecosystem).

In 2000 traces of a moose were found by two hunters, and DNA testing of recovered snagged hairs confirmed the moose presence. Despite this, the subject of current moose presence in New Zealand is still controversial (most people don’t believe it), and the naming of the pub after the fables animal looked more like a running joke. Still the fish and chips were good, the fireplace very welcoming after the cold wind in our Milford Sound boat trip. And the local beer was excellent, moose or no moose.

A lake on the way back from Milford Sound, New Zealand (Jun 3, 2008)

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