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Deodorant Sought to Save New Zealand's Native Birds

samzenpus posted about 4 years ago | from the safety-smell dept.

Science 102

New Zealand researchers have received a NZ$600,000 grant to develop a deodorant for native birds whose strong odors make them easy targets for introduced predators. Since the birds evolved without any mammal predators they emit a very strong odor compared to birds in other parts of the world. Canterbury University researcher Jim Briskie says kiwis smell like mushrooms or ammonia, while kakapo parrots have a hint of "musty violin case."

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But (2, Funny)

oldhack (1037484) | about 4 years ago | (#33691980)

How do they taste?

Re:But (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33692114)

Like chicken, of course!

Re:But (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33692226)

Actually, I believe the correct answer would be, "With their tongues, of course!"

Re:But (1)

master5o1 (1068594) | about 4 years ago | (#33693794)

But what about the fruit.

Re:But (2, Interesting)

adamofgreyskull (640712) | about 4 years ago | (#33695118)

You joke, but there was a news segment earlier this year about a guy who wanted to farm kiwis as food. His reasoning being, that cows, sheep and chicken will never become extinct. Start eating them, and farming them, and they will be saved...

Re:But (1)

Dr Dodgy (1063100) | about 4 years ago | (#33695574)

Actually it was about Wekas which are another New Zealand flightless native that is similarly protected. He suggested Kiwi could be farmed in a similar way but only as an aside to his main Weka topic. I suspect his initial claims were centred solely around Kiwi but he was not ballsy enough to come straight out and say "we should eat those fat little fuckers, have you ever seen cows on the endangered animals register?".
/New Zealander

Re:But (2, Funny)

Spugglefink (1041680) | about 4 years ago | (#33700016)

a guy who wanted to farm kiwis as food

Soylent Green?

Re:But (1)

CarpetShark (865376) | about 4 years ago | (#33695884)

But...How do they taste?

The deodorants?

Most birds i know smell like fish.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33691992)

hy-oooooooo

survival of the fittest (4, Insightful)

yincrash (854885) | about 4 years ago | (#33692002)

are we going to just deodorize them for the rest of time? i understand that it's probably our introduction of predators, but other than preservation in a zoo, how is it any way feasible or practical to deodorize them?

Re:survival of the fittest (4, Insightful)

Moryath (553296) | about 4 years ago | (#33692128)

It's not feasible, but that never stopped a government full of fucking morons from authorizing this kind of waste of money before.

These are the same type of people who decided there were too many insects, so they brought in toads... then they brought in cats, dogs, bunnies as pets... they brought in foxes for "recreational hunting"...brought in "pretty flowers", "garden plants", and on and on.

It's a wonder that vineweeds like "St. Augustine Grass" haven't overrun the whole fucking island. Of course, they have enough trouble with ragwort [wikipedia.org] ...

Re:survival of the fittest (5, Informative)

Rei (128717) | about 4 years ago | (#33692978)

Let me provide the history here. Let's look at the Kakapo, for example.

The Kakapo, or "owl parrot", is the heaviest (and only flightless) parrot species in the world. It is a unique evolutionary branch; it is the only member in not just its genus, but its own monotypic tribe. It has a wide range of unusual habits, such as being nocturnal and having a lek breeding system (where the males gather in a certain place at a certain time and put on shows to attract females).

It is incredibly well camouflaged, which was its defense in an area devoid of mammals which can hunt by smell. When cats, rats, ferrets, weasels, and stoats were introduced to New Zealand, however, it become a sitting dinner. The population on the mainland collapsed. In the late 1800s, they tried moving the remaining birds to Resolution Island as a sanctuary. In 1900s, stoats swam to the island and wiped out the entire population there in six years. So they tried moving the increasingly rare Kakapos to Little Barrier Island. Feral cats existed on the island, and the birds were never seen again. So they tried Kapiti island. The birds held out a bit longer against the feral cats there, but died as well. The bird went extinct on the north Island of New Zealand, and they were only rarely spotted on the south. A few times they caught enough birds to try to breed them in captivity. Every attempt failed. At several times, the birds were believed to be extinct or functionally extinct.

Then, in 1977, they found a small, precarious population of kakapo on Steward Island. There were no stoats, but feral cats were killing half the population every year. They had good luck controlling the cats, but could not eliminate them, so they began transferring the birds to even more remote islands and embarking on major predator eradication efforts. They finally got them to start breeding and increasing their numbers (although early on, polynesian rats were a huge predator of chicks). The population was down to about 40 in the mid 1990s, but is now up to 122 at present.

While the efforts to eradicate predators have been pretty successful, polynesian rats still remain a big problem in places. They go through great efforts to keep the rats away from the nests, including electronic devices with IR motion sensors that make bangs and flashes when rats approach. In short, for the time being, these species are entirely dependent on humans for their survival, and until a stable population can be reached, they will continue to need our assistance. The long term goal is to have stable populations on predator-free islands.

In the mean time, if you can make it so rats, cats, stoats, etc can't smell the defenseless birds? That'd be a huge, money-saving coup that could really help restore the populations.

Re:survival of the fittest (1)

WilliamGeorge (816305) | about 4 years ago | (#33693330)

As interesting as all that is, why are we so hell-bent on keeping them alive? Obviously they aren't a key part of a food chain, or the effects of such a low population would already have been felt. Sure it may or may not be humans that were originally responsible for introducing the predators, but how does that make it legitimate to spend so much on preserving them? Does the government of NZ really not have better things to do?

Re:survival of the fittest (1)

Rei (128717) | about 4 years ago | (#33693622)

In general, conservationists take the approach that if we caused a problem, we should do our best to fix it. New Zealand's amazing bird species were really hard hit by human settlement (which has profoundly changed the islands' ecosystem), and a huge number are either extinct, endangered, or threatened. There's the Kakapo and all but one species of Kiwi, of course. The huge Moa was butchered to extinction by the Maori. The Haast's Eagles, big enough to prey on the Moa, went extinct in turn. Two of three species of Kaka parrot are extinct. The remaining one is threatened; among other things, it feeds on honeydew from scale insects, and introduced bees and others compete for it. Even the Kea is threatened -- the "feathered wolf", a predatory parrot which you'd think could take care of itself and might even benefit from some of the new prey. But because of the bird's notoriety for killing animals many times it's size, including sheep (pecking at them with a scythe-like beak and causing them either to die of infection or to stampede off cliffs), plus the typical parrot destructive play behavior (destroying car antennas, windshield wipers, rubber seals around doors, etc), they've been extensively hunted as a pest and are now a threatened species.

Re:survival of the fittest (1)

WilliamGeorge (816305) | about 4 years ago | (#33694132)

Okay, so I get that these are cool animals which are headed for extinction. I agree that it would be nice if they stayed around, but what amount of resources are worth spending to avoid that? If all basic human needs were being met then by all means, lets save the birds next... but basic human needs aren't being met in many places.

If private organizations are funding these efforts then they certainly have a right to, though I'd personally rather see that money go to humanitarian efforts. If it is governments, then that means they are putting animals above their own citizens - either valuing animal life more, or believing that they have the right to take people's money and give it (in effect) to animals / animal care. That seems like a mix-up in priorities to me.

To summarize, I am in favor of passive things to help encourage animal survival: making laws preventing the hunting of endangered species, for example, but I don't want my tax dollars going to save animals when they could stay in my pocket. Then again, I'm not from NZ... so it is up to their citizens how they want to spend their hard-earned dollars (*and yes, the currency of NZ is called the dollar).

Re:survival of the fittest (3, Insightful)

ChrisMaple (607946) | about 4 years ago | (#33694680)

It is simply not possible to meet all human needs. That you don't undrestand this is an indication that you don't know how vile some people are. There are people who destroy stuff for the fun of it or because they're too drunk/drugged to know what they're doing, or care what they're doing. Having destroyed their own stuff, they'll whine that their needs aren't being met, and there will always be others who insist that a third party provide their needs.

People who do not deserve to live, should not be helped to live off the efforts of others. A person who helps someone who is immoral, is performing an immoral act.

Whoa!!! A little bit too much Ayn Rand there (1)

ShadowBot (908773) | about 4 years ago | (#33696930)

While there may be a number of people whose way of life consists of draining the resources of others to make thier own life better. Those are not the only people who need, or want, help.
        There are also people who may have been very productive for most of thier lives but due to accident, misfortune, or even temporary stupidity, may be in need of a little help to get back on thier feet. With this help, they could return to being productive members of society for the rest of thier lives, without it, whatever potential for production they still had will be lost permanently.

        While I definitely don't subscribe to the agenda which says "everyone is entitled to a certain level of enjoyment out of life, irrespective of what they put into it". Nevertheless, a good safety net means that you get more productive members of the society than you would otherwise.
A side effect of a good safety net though, is that it is very difficult to separate the permanently unproductive from those of temporarily reduced productivity.

        Besides, if you believe that people who can't survive on thier own (irrespective of how they got that way) shouldn't be helped to survive by others, why should cute animals be any different?

Re:survival of the fittest (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33694908)

Well, I *am* from (and in) NZ and I do want my hard earned tax dollars spent looking after these birds! (And, yes, they are my tax dollars) .

Surely it's a better option than spending countless billions waging a war in the middle east?

Re:survival of the fittest (4, Insightful)

Just_Say_Duhhh (1318603) | about 4 years ago | (#33693398)

Wouldn't it be easier to make a Kakapo-scented TRAP?

If you can't get rid of the predators, at least help the predators select out their taste for Kakapo

Re:survival of the fittest (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33695364)

Hey uh, why can I remember the crazy parrot eating the window lining of my parents car when we were up in Arthurs Pass way when I was a wee nipper? We'd be talking 82 or thereabouts... Plenty of people have had their cars eaten by the buggers while skiing. Parent article not stacking up 100%...

Re:survival of the fittest (1)

Rei (128717) | about 4 years ago | (#33697294)

That sounds like the Kea. Think about it: how would the flightless kakapo climb up the smooth sides of your vehicle to eat the window lining?

The Kea is a fascinating (and threatened, but not endangered) species in its own right. It's the world's only predatory parrot. Due to the high intelligence level of parrots, however, they're able to prey on animals many times their size -- even sheep -- through either attacking them then leaving them to die of infection, or by stampeding them off cliffs and then swooping down to eat the remains. As with most parrots, Kea are extremely playful, and their play is often destructive. There are reports of them travelling down the chimneys of mountain houses and then ripping up nearly everything inside before leaving.

Re:survival of the fittest (1)

myowntrueself (607117) | about 4 years ago | (#33695526)

They finally got them to start breeding

See, this is the main problem with almost all NZ native species that are 'endangered', that is to say they just don't seem to want to breed.

Conservation efforts are constantly running up against this; the damn things just don't seem to want to fuck and make babies.

They seem to just want to lie down and die out.

I say LET THEM.

Die mofos (1)

CarpetShark (865376) | about 4 years ago | (#33695906)

The population on the mainland collapsed...they [moved] the remaining birds to Resolution Island...stoats..wiped out the entire population...So they [moved them] to Little Barrier Island... Feral cats...the birds were never seen again. So they tried Kapiti island. The birds...died... At several times, the birds were believed to be extinct or functionally extinct.

Then, in 1977, they found a small, precarious population of kakapo on Steward Island.

Seems to me the problem isn't how to keep them alive, but how to keep them dead ;)

Re:survival of the fittest (1)

Rei (128717) | about 4 years ago | (#33693030)

By the way -- if you want to get a sense of how much they spend trying to save this species, check this out [wildlifeextra.com] . That's what they do when one of these birds gets sick. They really don't want to let the kakapo die out.

Re:survival of the fittest (1)

RanchNachos (1239826) | about 4 years ago | (#33694196)

Ummm.. in west central Florida where I'm from that's the standard grass, not a weed. "Crab grass" on the other hand....

Re:survival of the fittest (1)

ThenTypeMakeInstall (909826) | about 4 years ago | (#33695572)

Hmm - Moron-ith, do you know which country New Zealand is? Do you mean Australia (with the toads)? Maybe you mean Great Britain with the foxes? But well done with the ragwort comment, NZ does have ragwort, although i think you just got lucky with this one.

Re:survival of the fittest (1)

catmistake (814204) | about 4 years ago | (#33692520)

I agree the idea sounds silly, but invoking Darwin? I guess you missed the part of the summary that reads "introduced predators," as in not so natural selection. When humans inadvertently or deliberately endanger a species, we should just throw up our hands and say "oh, well?" When your roof leaks, you try to fix it.

Re:survival of the fittest (1)

Moryath (553296) | about 4 years ago | (#33692598)

Perhaps you weren't paying attention. Humans - aboriginal or otherwise - ARE an invasive species, introduced, predator, etc. And there are a whole host of symbiotic plants and animals that seem to just like to follow us around anywhere.

This is no different from asian carp or zebra mussels getting into waterways in North America. The only real difference is that these birds are "cute and cuddly" to some bleeding heart moron who is so arrogant as to think that they can stop the natural course of biology in its tracks, whereas we consider the other two a fucking nuisance that we want to get rid of because they're inconvenient.

I guarantee you, if the mosquito became "endangered" tomorrow because someone came up with a fogger that worked too fucking well and they started to vanish from an entire continent, nobody would shed a tear.

Re:survival of the fittest (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33692728)

I guarantee you, if the mosquito became "endangered" tomorrow because someone came up with a fogger that worked too fucking well and they started to vanish from an entire continent, nobody would shed a tear.

No one except the bats and dragonflies that feed on them.

What is arrogant is to think that we can fuck with ecosystems with no negative consequences.

Re:survival of the fittest (1)

chriso11 (254041) | about 4 years ago | (#33692742)

Errr - correct me if I'm wrong, but the carp and Zebra mussels were introduced by human activities, while the Kiwi's are in their natural habitat. There are many non-cuddly animals that have protected status. I do not know of any endangered species that is considered a 'pest' from reintroduction into another location.

As for mosquitoes, perhaps you could read this article on the importance of mosquitoes.. [nature.com]

Re:survival of the fittest (2, Interesting)

sourcerror (1718066) | about 4 years ago | (#33693098)

However their conclusion is quite the contrary to what you seem to suggest:

"Given the huge humanitarian and economic consequences of mosquito-spread disease, few scientists would suggest that the costs of an increased human population would outweigh the benefits of a healthier one. And the 'collateral damage' felt elsewhere in ecosystems doesn't buy much sympathy either. The romantic notion of every creature having a vital place in nature may not be enough to plead the mosquito's case. It is the limitations of mosquito-killing methods, not the limitations of intent, that make a world without mosquitoes unlikely.

And so, while humans inadvertently drive beneficial species, from tuna to corals, to the edge of extinction, their best efforts can't seriously threaten an insect with few redeeming features. "They don't occupy an unassailable niche in the environment," says entomologist Joe Conlon, of the American Mosquito Control Association in Jacksonville, Florida. "If we eradicated them tomorrow, the ecosystems where they are active will hiccup and then get on with life. Something better or worse would take over." "

Re:survival of the fittest (0, Flamebait)

Bing Tsher E (943915) | about 4 years ago | (#33693444)

"They don't occupy an unassailable niche in the environment," says entomologist Joe Conlon, of the American Mosquito Control Association in Jacksonville, Florida.

Now you're quoting a professional exterminator, moron. Is there no end to where you'll reach.

Seriously, just suck on your spoonful of soylent green and let the grownups discuss things here.

Re:survival of the fittest (1)

chriso11 (254041) | about 4 years ago | (#33693740)

My points were
A) The pests that Moryath were referring to were introduced by humans; the impact on the Kiwi's is not because the Kiwis were introduced, but they were 'victims' from introduced species.

B) Eradicating mosquitoes is probably a benign effort (if implemented correctly). The Screwworm [wikipedia.org] was a major pest that was effectively eradicated from most of North and Central America. This effort provided a significant improvement in the quality of life for a large number of animals, including wild animals.

Re:survival of the fittest (1)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | about 4 years ago | (#33693290)

The only real difference is that these birds are "cute and cuddly" t

So what? It's an evolutionary advantage. Humans like them, therefore we protect them. It's not like we get nothing out of the deal. I'd like to see one of these someday. I'm half convinced that some of the bans on private ownership of certain species is eliminating a huge avenue for rehabilitating some species. If it weren't for 'pet' species, a lot of the varieties of cattle that exist today would have long gone extinct.

Re:survival of the fittest (1)

Bing Tsher E (943915) | about 4 years ago | (#33693424)

I guarantee you, if the mosquito became "endangered" tomorrow because someone came up with a fogger that worked too fucking well and they started to vanish from an entire continent, nobody would shed a tear.

Until all the bats started starving, and plants ceased being pollinated (I very much doubt this 'fogger' would only target mosquitoes.)

Then, fuckheads like you would, of course, say the bats and plants are unnecessary.

Stick your spoon in your tub of soylent green and grin at us, moron.

Re:survival of the fittest (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about 4 years ago | (#33692658)

Maybe there are plans to deal with the introduced predators. Maybe yes keep them deodorized indefinitely until they come up with an easier plan. Maybe they figure the price of this deodorant will be worth preventing a species from going extinct in the wild. I don't see why we should adopt natural selection as a goal after we introduce invasive species. I personally don't think "natural is always better," especially since it sounds like they're only going extinct because we introduced predators. Even if they were naturally going extinct, what's that matter? We naturally don't live far beyond 30. If we like the birds, save them, fuck natural selection. Survival of the species we like best might work better for us than pure survival of the fittest.

Re:survival of the fittest (3, Interesting)

richardkelleher (1184251) | about 4 years ago | (#33692788)

In all likelihood, the deodorization process will break their breeding process and they will disappear completely in a year or two.

Re:survival of the fittest (1)

VolcanoEspresso (1701062) | about 4 years ago | (#33693342)

I've been thinking it would be good to develop a robot that smells like a kiwi and attracts the predators. When the predator is crawling over the fake kiwi robot, the robot injects the predator with death poison.

Re:survival of the fittest (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 4 years ago | (#33693406)

It'll be a marketing campaign, showing humorous videos of female kiwis flocking to male kiwis who use Axe Body Wash.

Re:survival of the fittest (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33694910)

How about cyanide? You can even put it in dry and gel form for the more picky birds.

Re:survival of the fittest (1)

nospam007 (722110) | about 4 years ago | (#33695666)

"are we going to just deodorize them for the rest of time?"

Wouldn't it be easier to odorize their whole habitat with bird-stink, so that predators can't use it anymore?

Roll on (1)

symes (835608) | about 4 years ago | (#33692008)

So surely then the predators will just adjust and go for the smell of deodorant? What eats these birds anyhow? Just so a I know what I can expect to find nibbling my armpit.

Will not make joke about how the people smell... (1)

elrous0 (869638) | about 4 years ago | (#33692016)

Will not make joke about how the people smell...Will not make joke about how the people smell...

Re:Will not make joke about how the people smell.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33692102)

Will not make joke about how the people smell?

Re:Will not make joke about how the people smell.. (1)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | about 4 years ago | (#33692190)

Like sheep. I mean, it is New Zealand.

Re:Will not make joke about how the people smell.. (1)

sharkey (16670) | about 4 years ago | (#33693372)

Lots of French in New Zealand?

Reproductive system. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33692050)

What research, if any, has gone into seeing how this will change their reproductive habits? Many animals use smell to find potential mates.

With this grant they may cause them to go extinct due to not being able to find one another...

Re:Reproductive system. (4, Funny)

eln (21727) | about 4 years ago | (#33692206)

This is a valid concern. Once you introduce deodorant into their lifestyle the female of the species will start to naturally gravitate toward the males that smell less like an old shoe and more like Old Spice. This will naturally encourage more of the males to use the deodorant. From there it's only a matter of time before these things are drenching themselves in Axe body spray and getting fake tans.

Re:Reproductive system. (5, Funny)

russ1337 (938915) | about 4 years ago | (#33692630)

Hello, ladies, look at your Kiwi, now back to me, now back at your Kiwi, now back to me. Sadly, he isn’t me, but if he stopped using dirt scented body wash and switched to Old Spice, he could smell like he’s me. Look down, back up, where are you? You’re on a Waka with the kiwi your kiwi could smell like. What’s in your beak, back at me. I have it, it’s an kina with two worms. Look again, the worms are now tikis. Anything is possible when your kiwi smells like Old Spice and not dirt. I’m on a sheep.

What? Deoderant repelling prey? (5, Funny)

Beerdood (1451859) | about 4 years ago | (#33692080)

I find that hard to believe. According to the commercials I've seen, deodorants like Old Spice and Axe body spray seems to attract natural predators like cougars more than they repel them.

Re:What? Deoderant repelling prey? (2, Informative)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about 4 years ago | (#33692694)

Well it might be hard to believe that it could work or that it is even feasible to accomplish if they had a working deodorant, but I find it easy to believe that a government would waste $600,000.

I know hippies will mod me down for this (1, Interesting)

Aboroth (1841308) | about 4 years ago | (#33692152)

But after reading about the kakapo, it must be the stupidest, most pointless bird on the planet. Sure I guess it is good to study them to understand whatever needs to be understood, but these birds are pretty retarded. Because of their environment, they evolved into something that has practically no positive traits to help their survival. In fact, practically everything about them invites predators to them, or makes them completely helpless. I suppose it would be bad for them to all die, but I'm not sure why, exactly.

Re:I know hippies will mod me down for this (4, Insightful)

Moryath (553296) | about 4 years ago | (#33692324)

Also, one would imagine if they tasted good, New Zealand would long ago have started farming them and introduced "New Zealand Fried Kakapo" restaurants all over.

I suppose it would be bad for them to all die, but I'm not sure why, exactly.

Species go extinct all the time. They did it before humans, they'll do it after humans. Some of them do it to themselves, some succumb to natural climate shifts, some wind up as dinner due to an evolution by a predator. One good volcanic eruption can take out a whole bunch of them - and if it burns up most of the plant material on the island, the herbivores are pretty much doomed.

Humans are the most arrogant idiotic species on the planet: we're so damn arrogant we actually think we can save species of animals from the normal course of change, e.g. extinction.

Re:I know hippies will mod me down for this (1)

Moryath (553296) | about 4 years ago | (#33692474)

Addendum:
Yes, humans count as an invasive species.
Yes, humans count as a predator.
Yes, humans have, as a species, driven other species to extinction. Steller's Sea Cow, for just one example - although by the time it was discovered in 1741, the word is that it was already on its way to extinction, having gone from massive abundance to only existing in a small area around the Commander Islands region (though again, the current theoretical guess is that it was killed off in other regions of its range by aboriginal humans anyways).

No, I don't see anything wrong with it. The greatest danger to humans is that we overbreed like crazy, and we probably should stop doing it, except for this suicidally insane "every human life is sacred" bullshit that the religionists push.

Re:I know hippies will mod me down for this (1)

Spugglefink (1041680) | about 4 years ago | (#33700390)

The greatest danger to humans is that we overbreed like crazy...

We breed just fine, it's just we've become largely (although not entirely) unaffected by predation, disease, and famine, so we're a lot harder to kill off than we used to be.

Even a generation ago, just about every family had some story about the baby they lost to some unavoidable tragedy. Those stories are growing increasingly rare.

I figure the pendulum will swing the other way soon enough though. Some super bug pandemic, some extinction event, or the species just collapsing under the weight of its impact on the ecosystem. In the meantime, have a margarita and get laid and enjoy what is probably the least dangerous and most fun time to be a human in our long history.

Re:I know hippies will mod me down for this (1)

Actually, I do RTFA (1058596) | about 4 years ago | (#33692602)

Humans are the most arrogant idiotic species on the planet: we're so damn arrogant we actually think we can save species of animals from the normal course of change, e.g. extinction.

And we can.

We can talk about cost/benefit, although that almost entirely based on hard to define values (like the likelihood some species will be able to help cure a disease or convert waste to biofuel, and how predictable that would be.)

But seriously, we have a crazy amount of control over the planet. Why couldn't we save a species?

Re:I know hippies will mod me down for this (1)

Moryath (553296) | about 4 years ago | (#33692812)

Ok, try this one.

You have a slow-moving animal, evolved on an island where it was the only major predator for something like, say, plants.

Now all of a sudden a pregnant ship's cat gets loose on the island. Or someone's pregnant pet dog. Or a gravid snake that was hiding out on a ship, or in someone's house because the moron likes keeping "exotic" animals as pets.

A few years later, there are 300 or more of these things just eating every one of our slow-moving, ground-nesting animal that they can find. What are you going to do about it, huh? Aside from keeping them all in zoos? Are you going to somehow eradicate all the cats or snakes or dogs in one month? Maybe ship the animal off to another deserted island, or at least "deserted for now" island?

Well?

This is what I mean. Humans are fucking stupid and arrogant to think they can "protect" every species on the goddamn planet.

Re:I know hippies will mod me down for this (1)

Garble Snarky (715674) | about 4 years ago | (#33692864)

You're talking about human-caused extinctions that arise from one-time, highly-influential accidents. Unfortunate as these may be, you are right, there is really nothing humans can reasonably do about them. But you can't deny that there are other cases where humans can put a stop to some aspect of their own behavior, when it is ongoing, and directly harmful to a species. I'm not saying we always can or should do that, but to say that humans can NEVER prevent an extinction that they would have been responsible for, is simply wrong. So no, we can't protect EVERY species, but yes, we absolutely can protect some.

Re:I know hippies will mod me down for this (4, Insightful)

John Whitley (6067) | about 4 years ago | (#33692384)

I suppose it would be bad for them to all die, but I'm not sure why, exactly.

Wow, what's not to understand here?

  1. Animal adapts to its native environment, and survives just fine.
  2. Humans introduce invasive, non-native species that displace and/or devastate native species. Being capable of awareness of our environment and capable of compassion, we eventually feel like fuck-ups for this. "Damn, made a mess. Maybe should go clean it up."
  3. We try to do something about it.

It's #2 that's key, and it doesn't require being a "hippie" to get it. Even non-hippies manage to keep a clean house. Is that sentiment so hard to grok?

Re:I know hippies will mod me down for this (1)

Aboroth (1841308) | about 4 years ago | (#33692672)

Well, you didn't actually address my point. I was wondering why it would matter if they all die. All you did was give a reason why we should feel bad about it.

Re:I know hippies will mod me down for this (1)

hawkfish (8978) | about 4 years ago | (#33692994)

Well, you didn't actually address my point. I was wondering why it would matter if they all die. All you did was give a reason why we should feel bad about it.

What's the difference? If you accept that we "should" feel bad about it, that implies that it "matters" to you.

Re:I know hippies will mod me down for this (2, Interesting)

John Whitley (6067) | about 4 years ago | (#33693072)

blah blah blah biodiversity blah blah ecosystem disruption blah blah blah(**)

(**) yeah, it's Friday and I'm feeling snarky.

Re:I know hippies will mod me down for this (0, Flamebait)

Aboroth (1841308) | about 4 years ago | (#33692690)

Also thanks for acting like a pretentious prick.

Re:I know hippies will mod me down for this (1)

hawkfish (8978) | about 4 years ago | (#33693016)

Also thanks for acting like a pretentious prick.

I didn't read it that way. Why did you?

They are not adapting to native environment (2, Interesting)

SuperKendall (25149) | about 4 years ago | (#33693560)

Animal adapts to its native environment, and survives just fine.

No they aren't.

The native environment includes predators now. And it's not like we genetically engineered the things. They are natural too. It's not like species have not transferred locations before, it probably would have happened anyway someday even without humans.

Basically, they found a comfortable place for a time but made bad evolutionary choices that ensured some day they would be screwed.

Re:They are not adapting to native environment (2, Insightful)

10101001 10101001 (732688) | about 4 years ago | (#33694714)

The native environment includes predators now.

Um, I'm pretty sure the "native" word was to make clear that while now there are predators, they didn't get there on their own power.

And it's not like we genetically engineered the things.

Not yet.

They are natural too. It's not like species have not transferred locations before, it probably would have happened anyway someday even without humans.

I'm going to guess "no". The point is, it's a guess, just like your comment is a guess. Humans have intentionally or unintentionally introduced a lot of species into places where they would almost certainly would never have reached (ie, the birds would have died out before the cats came or the cats would have evolved and been a different species by the time they reached the islands). I think it's a bit too simple to act like humans aren't responsible for what has happened.

Basically, they found a comfortable place for a time but made bad evolutionary choices that ensured some day they would be screwed.

Or, you know, it could be that nature made good evolutionary choices. You know those feral cats killing the birds? What happens when all the birds die out? Yea, they might just all die out unless humans start feeding them (possibly with imported meat). There's a reason there's often not many, if any, largish mammals on islands: there's generally too much isolation for prey to move away resulting in large predator die-offs when their food supply runs low. Maybe the feral cats or rats will be small enough to survive. But it's not like the birds made a "bad evolutionary choice". You make it sound like they took the wrong path on a road or went out gambling and lost it big on the roulette. :)

Re:They are not adapting to native environment (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | about 4 years ago | (#33694826)

Um, I'm pretty sure the "native" word was to make clear that while now there are predators, they didn't get there on their own power.

The original ones didn't, but that was literally over 100 years ago!! At this point they are native, since they flourish on their own- and as I stated it was only a matter of time that other species would make it there, humans or not.

I'm going to guess "no".

Where do you think islands get so much of the wildlife they have? Animals can naturally make it over huge distances you would not think possible.

just like your comment is a guess.

My comment is based on what has happened in the past with animals across the world, so actually it's not a guess so much as a certainty over a long period of time.

or the cats would have evolved and been a different species by the time they reached the islands

Oh right, because they would naturally evolve into peace-loving beings wishing to spread only happiness and love, instead of even more fearsome natural predators.

Or, you know, it could be that nature made good evolutionary choices.

Well seeing as how they are on very expensive and intensive life support, I really cannot agree with that statement at all. Every single choice they make about how they live invites them to be eaten, right up to gathering in the Big Show to choose a mate where a whole bunch can be taken out at once.

I love wild animals and support a lot of causes related to preservation. But in this case, the species in question did nothing to help themselves, and are simply doomed regardless of how much we help.

Re:They are not adapting to native environment (2, Insightful)

jrumney (197329) | about 4 years ago | (#33695378)

it probably would have happened anyway someday even without humans.

Someday, when feral cats learn to make boats stocked up with provisions and sail thousands of miles across the ocean.

Re:I know hippies will mod me down for this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33692636)

I suppose it would be bad for them to all die, but I'm not sure why, exactly.

The beauty of low-hanging fruit is that as long as the low-hanging fruit are still hanging around, the fruit higher up the tree has that much less to worry about...

Re:I know hippies will mod me down for this (1)

russ1337 (938915) | about 4 years ago | (#33692656)

But after reading about the kakapo, it must be the stupidest, most pointless bird on the planet.

no that would be Sarah Palin......

=rimshot=

Re:I know hippies will mod me down for this (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about 4 years ago | (#33692794)

I suppose it would be bad for them to all die, but I'm not sure why, exactly.

Genetic diversity is in general a good thing to preserve. If a particularly bad bird disease decimates most of the major birds, but the kakapo is resistant, we'd really be glad we saved them. The chances of that happening seem extremely low, and I think it's also pretty unlikely that we'll find any other practical use for them, but if we can it would still be prudent to save them.

Furthermore, just because we don't have the resources to restore the environment to how it was before, eliminating all of the introduced predators, doesn't mean we won't be able to at some point in the future. It seems less likely that we'd be able to recreate this bird though. I'm no zoologist, but I'd imagine there are some species that wouldn't be able to go from captivity to back into the wild. If the bird goes extinct in the wild, we keep it alive in a zoo, and then at some point try to rebuild that ecosystem, maybe the birds wouldn't know how to get food unless it's from a trough, and would starve.

Plus, doesn't everyone feel a little guilty when they hear about a species going extinct because of human shortsightedness?

Re:I know hippies will mod me down for this (1)

Aboroth (1841308) | about 4 years ago | (#33692974)

No, I don't really feel bad about a retarded bird going extinct because of other people's mistakes. I'd like to see it survive, but I'm saving my empathy for things that matter.

Supposing that there is a practical and good reason to keep them around (other than helping soothe our conscience), such as genetic diversity, then that should be the point that conservationists START their rants with when they try to get people to help out. Listening to people tell me how bad humans suck, and how awful we are, and how we have to help some stupid bird because of it, gets people down. Trying to guilt people into helping fix a problem that they themselves did nothing to cause, well, that is a pretty dumb tactic for enlisting help.

Re:I know hippies will mod me down for this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33692894)

Oh, you dont see a point in their existence, so might as well let them go to extinction.

You fucking moron.

Re:I know hippies will mod me down for this (1)

Aboroth (1841308) | about 4 years ago | (#33693078)

Well, I didn't say that. I'd like to see them survive. I was just wondering what bad effects we would see if they stopped existing. Besides, lots of other species have gone extinct, and new ones come into existence. Why does this one matter?

Re:I know hippies will mod me down for this (1)

Bing Tsher E (943915) | about 4 years ago | (#33693486)

Besides, lots of other species have gone extinct, and new ones come into existence. Why does this one matter?

You make it sound like 'pop groups lose popularity and disband, but new ones come on the scene, so there's always good music to listen to.'

It takes thousands and thousands of years for higher species of life to 'evolve' and years for them to be driven extinct.

Seriously, get a clue. Don't just tromp around the thread spewing ignorance. You've had a heck of a trolling session today.

Re:I know hippies will mod me down for this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33695160)

I suppose it would be bad for them to all die, but I'm not sure why, exactly.

It's possible, not probable, but possible that something the bird does will be usable by us in the future.

Normally this applies more to plants and medicine, but it's hard to predict the future. If kakapo livers are the vital ingredient in creating the elixir of immortality 5000 years from now, I think the future will feel fine about our conservationist efforts.

Re:I know hippies will mod me down for this (1)

PhilF39 (1909674) | about 4 years ago | (#33709008)

I don't know much about the kakapo, but changes we make to an ecosystem sometimes affect it in surprising ways. For many years, the alligator was fair game--in a quite literal sense--in the Florida Everglades. The meat was good and the leather was highly valued for boots, purses, belts, and other items. Plus, alligators were a dangerous nuisance. "They'd none of them be missed," as Ko-Ko of Titipu might say. Surprisingly, as the alligator population shrunk, so did the population of white-tailed deer. Here's the scoop: In the dry season, gators dig down into the mud to stay moist and cool. In so doing, they create pits which serve as watering holes for deer, birds, and other critters. When folks had killed off too many gators, the populations of white-tailed dear, great blue herons, egrets, fish, turtles, etc. began to shrink. If alligators had gone extinct, the ecology of the Everglades would have been decimated. There are numerous examples of this kind of surprising interrelationship. (Star Trek IV comes to mind. ) But truly, we're just not smart enough to figure it all out in advance, so we sometimes decide it is prudent to take a cautions approach.... That said, it sounds like the kakapo is now so far removed from its original ecosystem that any possible ecological damage has probably already occurred.

The trick is in the Advertising (1)

Agent0013 (828350) | about 4 years ago | (#33692236)

Making the deoderant is only the first step. The real trick will be getting the birds to buy it and use it. I guess if they have commercials showing how the smelly birds don't get the girls, it will convince them to buy the deoderant. Kind of like the Axe commercials, but with Kiwis in it.

Irony in Nature (1)

beaker8000 (1815376) | about 4 years ago | (#33692412)

This type of thing always has unintended consequences. I bet the birds use smell to locate or attract mates. They'll apply the deodorant, no more baby birds, they go extinct. The researchers will shrug, say 'we didn't see that coming', and start working on their next grant: snorkels for manatees maybe.

Old Spice (1)

AioKits (1235070) | about 4 years ago | (#33692524)

Hopefully, this will make for some interesting and comical new Old Spice commercials!

Bass-ackwards (1)

atomic brainslide (87546) | about 4 years ago | (#33692584)

Okay, you've got yourself a predator/prey situation and the best solution you can come up with is a feeble attempt to artificially mask the prey? I suppose a more obvious and cheaper alternative, say, using the bird scent as bait to trap the predators escaped the geniuses at this agency.

Re:Bass-ackwards (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33692730)

Well, it is New Zealand...

Introduced predators (1)

Stargoat (658863) | about 4 years ago | (#33692588)

It's almost always a shame when an animal is introduced into a new environment. Except the pheasant. The pheasant is awesome.

Water doesn't flow uphill (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33692594)

At this point, New Zealanders and Australians are going to have to come to terms with the fact that ecological system that existed there before the European invasion no longer exists and cannot be restored. These are ecological systems in a state of flux and will eventually settle into a new equilibrium, but they will never return to the way they were.

I understand your concerns (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33692712)

that it isn't going to help the kiwi in the long run, but you must remember, the kiwi is the symbol of national pride here. I'm sure you americans would have no problem spending squillions if the opportunity presented itself to retain the bald eagle.

Re:I understand your concerns (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33693962)

I'm sure you americans would have no problem spending squillions if the opportunity presented itself to retain the bald eagle.

That depends. Is it delicious?

Don't just slap some tape on it. Fix it. (1)

atmtarzy (1267802) | about 4 years ago | (#33693048)

So we're going to remove any incentive for these birds to evolve by deodorizing them? It's highly unlikely we'll be able to deodorize every bird all the time, so there will be birds that we miss. Only the birds we miss, and miss often, will be under pressure to evolve. This is a significantly smaller population. Evolution only works well on large populations. So this species will be significantly less likely to evolve, which means the most likely scenario is humans deodorizing these birds for the rest of time, or until we come up with some other solution.

I say we spend the money researching which genes create the odors, find a way to disable them, steal some eggs, modify the genetics of those eggs to disable the odor-creating genes, and then let natural selection work its magic.

That's all assuming investing all that money is even worth keeping this bird species around.

Re:Don't just slap some tape on it. Fix it. (1)

ChrisMaple (607946) | about 4 years ago | (#33694732)

By introducing odor-free birds, you've created a new species, also very rare and hence endangered. Instead of one endangered species, you now have two; the problem has just been made twice as bad.

Of course, the sort of people who most loudly seek to preserve species are the same sort that wouldn't think a man-made species has any value and should be preserved. Species such as GMO foods.

Re:Don't just slap some tape on it. Fix it. (1)

atmtarzy (1267802) | about 4 years ago | (#33694800)

Unless this odor is a significant component of mating (to the point where birds with odor won't mate with birds without), removing it won't create a new species, at least by the (objective) biological definition of a species. It simply forces an adaptation onto an existing species. Preliminary testing on small populations should be done to ensure the adaptation actually benefits the species so that no unintended side-effects surprise us later. So unless this situation is more complex (eg reproductive rates are drastically lower in birds without the odor, or the predators have an alternative method to identify the birds), then the birds with this new adaptation would quickly grow back to near the population level they were at before the predators entered their environment.

If the odor is used in mating, there isn't much we can do without going really hardcore, and somehow remove the role the odor plays in the reproductive/mating process. Also, if odor is a requirement in mating, then preliminary testing should identify it and we'll realize the idea is a bust before we have any significant negative impact on the population.

If there are multiple methods for predators to identify the birds, then we'd have to research how to remove all of them, and hope all of them play no major role in the mating process. From there, it's just cost/benefit analysis to decide whether it's worth the time/money to research adaptations for all those methods, which should be in the hands of whoever is deciding whether to grant the funding for the research.

There must be more to it (1)

Kapiti Kid (1003167) | about 4 years ago | (#33693306)

One thing that is not mentioned is the importance of smell to a kiwi. This species evolved in the total absence of mammals, and as a consequence has developed many features and behaviours that mimic those of mammals. One feature is their keen sense of smell, which is unusual for a bird. Their nostrils are at the tip of their long bill, rather than at the base, and they hunt for invertebrates by smell. They are also territorial, and mark their territory with strong-smelling faeces. They may be the only birds to do this -- so headlines about 'deodorising the kiwi' are probably rather simplistic.

I hope I'm not paying for this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33693328)

I always thought we should farm them and export them as a delicacy.

When was the last time cows were going extinct?

An alternative plan... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33693676)

Since the birds evolved without any mammal predators they emit a very strong odor compared to birds in other parts of the world.

Maybe they should spray some more dangerous animal to smell like a kiwi.

They leap through the bushes only to discover... something big and mean. Take out the predators that way, or at least make the smell not very reliable.

"parrot's" (1)

b1t r0t (216468) | about 4 years ago | (#33693798)

Please, for the love of all that's sane, listen to Bob the Angry Flower...

Re:"parrot's" (1)

b1t r0t (216468) | about 4 years ago | (#33693808)

Oops, hit submit by accident. Here's the link. [journalismcareers.com]

Science to the rescue - eventually... (1)

meerling (1487879) | about 4 years ago | (#33694268)

Looks like it's time to take the gene samples and archive recordings of them because we need something to program the clone based replicants with in about 180 years.

Going about this all wrong (2, Insightful)

dheltzel (558802) | about 4 years ago | (#33694402)

Instead of deodorizing the birds, they should just make a synthetic version of the smell and spray it all around the island, confusing the predators because the smell is everywhere.

Did they try training dogs (1)

TimSSG (1068536) | about 4 years ago | (#33694776)

Did they try training dogs to kill the rats and cats.
And, train them to NOT kill the birds.

I did not read the article.

Tim S.

Douglas Adams and kakapo (2, Informative)

FrankHS (835148) | about 4 years ago | (#33695904)

Here is a video of Douglas Adams (of hitchhikers fame) talking about the kakapo and why they are endangered. The Kakapo part starts at 3:00 into the video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3HR6mtkPP4&feature=related [youtube.com]

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