On my last day in Napier I visited Opossum World, as recommended by an anonymous tipster. Opossum World is a store selling products made from possum fur, but out the back is what purports to be an educational display about the menace of the possum. It’s essentially a massive anti-possum propaganda exercise, and it makes me wonder if it was created to appease tourists horrified by the slaughter of innocent possums for the fur trade. I mean, if you’re coming from Australia where the possum is beloved and protected native animal, it’s going to be horrifying to find it treated like this in New Zealand.
Such is Opossum World’s contempt for the possum, they don’t even call it by its proper name, instead borrowing the name of the possum’s North American cousin, the opossum. Maybe it’s like an admonishment – “Oh, possum!” Or a troublesome drunken Irishman, O’Possum.
Here are some highlights of the strange world of Opossum World.
The Bridge of Remembrance
Past the gloves, past the hats is the Bridge of Remembrance. But is it not in memory of all the dead possums. Instead it commemorates the “70,000,000 opossums consuming 21,000 tonnes of vegetation per night”. Except humans are responsible for destroying two-thirds of New Zealand’s native forest. And the current estimate of possums in New Zealand is now only 30 million. And the Bridge of Remembrance is made of wood.
This possum can see into your soul. It knows you know it is dead. It knows you know it was murdered while it was trying to get some food. It will appear as a vision to remind you of this the next time you are at McDonald’s enjoying a replica Georgie Pie pie.
The miracle of birth
This is the extent of Opossum World’s anti-possum propaganda. This taxidermied possum is demonstrating the joy of birth. The mother possum has just given birth to the tiny possum kitten (kitten!) that is in the process of crawling into the mother’s pouch. Except the mother possum looks like there’s a demonic alien about to burst out of her stomach, whereupon it will eat all the native birds it can find and then crap on your windscreen. All that’s missing is flickering red LED lights in the possum’s eyes.
The joy of motherhood
On the left, a young possum rides on the back of its mother. On the right… WHAT THE HELL IS THIS? Oh, it’s a possum that is too big to live in its mother’s pouch, but can still fit its head inside to suckle from its mom’s teats. The mother looks startled and mildly annoyed and appears to be attempting to run away. This is the possum equivalent of a 20-something young adult who still lives at home.
And here is the lonely possum hunter. He’s been out shooting at night and has some possums to gut. He’s all by himself out there in the bush, man alone. Here he is taking a break and contemplating his life, wondering if all those dead possums have all been worth it. It would be nice if, just once, the native birds would say thanks for all the hard work.
Opossum World is located at 157 Marine Parade. The next time you’re in Napier, you should go there. Better than a winery tour.