Saturday, March 21, 2009

Major Biosecurity Alert!!!!


Dunedin's relative newcomer on the newspaper scene, D Scene, seems to make up for what it lacks in real news by sensationalizing items that are fairly trivial.
The most recent example is entitled: Imported species escape. And in the first paragraph we find out: Imported exotic butterflies have been escaping from a popular Dunedin museum attraction, sparking a bio-security crackdown. Wow, you think, this is really serious. The paper goes on to say: Biosecurity New Zealand slapped warnings on Otago Museum after butterflies began bolting from its three-level Tropical Forest display.
Bolting? Butterflies? Come on. Fluttering, flittering, but scarcely bolting. Apparently the attraction came extremely close to temporary closure. (Yeah, like overnight.) Several 'critical situation non-compliance reports' were issued along with instructions for preventing further escapes.
It makes the butterflies sound like prisoners on the run, murderers, abusers, thieves, druggies.
None of these. Just butterflies, and as for the biosecurity alert, when the butterflies actually got out into the big wild world, they almost all dropped dead from the cold. Right outside the building. So no major escape into the wilds of Dunedin, infesting the local gardens with bright and beautiful colours. Nope, these little critturs didn't realise that the hothouse they normally live in isn't what it's like outside.
In fact, the biosecurity expert who was quoted above actually says, in paragraph seven, that the risk of some major disaster was 'negligible.' Of course it was.
A student gets in on the act. A Botany Department Masters student whose name I won't mention since his mana must have been much demoted after the way he's quoted in the paper.
"The butterflies were pouring out [of the building]. They just shimmy on through [the iron cladding]. Initially, there were tons."
Now even given the modern student's propensity for hyperbole, I have to ask: Tons?? To achieve tons of butterflies would require them to be present in their millions - billions perhaps. The Museum doesn't have millions of butterflies. This student was able to gather the ones who survived the escape and were sitting on the patio furniture (I'm kidding) in an icecream container (a large icecream container, no doubt). Then he took them back to the Botany Department. Doesn't that make him an aider and abetter of the escapees?
Further on this same student says he is 'confounded' that the Tropical Forest hasn't been shut down because of the escapes (which supposedly caused a 'panic' by the Museum staff - a panic that apparently took place over nearly two years). The Botany Department incurred a shut down. Over something. Apparently they work with frozen plant material, something that seems even less likely to escape, let alone survive, outside. Methinks there's more to that story than meets the eye.

One of the notorious escapees is pictured above (courtesy of the TF webpage); note the knotted sheets hidden beneath the wings, the bag with a change of clothes for after they've been through the sewer pipes, a wallet full of real money, the night goggles, and so on.
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