Sunday, March 11, 2007
A friend sent this picture to me. We happened to be having a conversation about New Zealand, and the Kiwi, and then the fact that some idiot decided to introduce possum to NZ so that they would have something to hunt and would have some fur to wear.
Now a bit of background. There are no natural mammals on NZ, so the Kiwi took over the role of rodent. It lives on the ground, burrows under the ground, is flightless, and eats bugs, sounds very much like a rodent to me. You can probably imagine the ecological horror that ensued with the introduction of a carnivorous, quick breeding mammal to this environment.
I immediately set to thinking about how to rectify this situation and I came up with large packs of wolves, a suggestion I immediately discarded, even before I said it out aloud. My next thought was that all you really needed to do to control the possum population was build one long paved road in the middle of nowhere and drive up and down it, that would kill, roughly, 95% of them I think. Problem solved. My friend enjoined that this would be far more effective with armadillos.
Ok, some more background. Armadillos have a pretty good defense mechanism when it comes to predators. They curl up into a little ball and let their armor take the hits until the predator gets bored. In order to get them out of trouble initially, if they get surprised for instance, they jump several feet into the air. Sounds good huh.
So, lets imagine you are an armadillo, walking along this nice smooth black surface with an occasional white dashed line down the center. A light comes over the hill. You think nothing of it for a while and then you notice a light (armadillos aren't that smart here folks.) You think nothing of it, "Ooh, hey! A line!" Suddenly you notice a light really close to you. It still takes your pea sized intellect a few minutes to process and all the while the light gets closer. Suddenly you realize, DANGER! You leap!
Now a quick math problem. If a car leaves Dallas and travels at 60 miles an hour for two and a half hours, exactly what point of the grill of the car will an armadillo impact if it leaps two feet into the air one half second before the car gets to where the armadillo was previously standing, blissfully ignorant.
I think there is hope for the Kiwi. I bet they don't leap at the sight of cars. I hear they are even smart enough to stay off roads. Which is fortunate for them, that is where all the possum are.