Alf was tempted to muse on the Treaty implications (among other things) on learning that Trevor Mallard is promoting the idea of bringing back the moa.
Trev might have started small by aiming to bring back the huia.
But no, credit where credit is due – he thinks big and bold and he has set his sights on the moa.
This comes from his fascination with “the science of de-extinction” and its rapid advance, according to a report at Stuff.
… the Hutt South MP has laid down a challenge for Lower Hutt and for scientists: Let’s work towards the possibility of moa one day striding again through the bush of Rimutaka Forest Park.
While admitting it sounded “a bit Jurassic Park”, Mallard said scientists had been making progress on techniques for using recovered DNA from extinct animals to reconstruct new life.
Fifty to 100 years from now, Wainuiomata could again be home to the moa, which would make an enormous difference to the environment, community and economy, he said.
“It would certainly give us international focus and, frankly, I can’t think of a better place. Those valleys [behind Wainuiomata] are accessible without helicopter, with a one-hour walk.”
It seems Trev was addressing a bunch of businesspeople at a Development Wainuiomata breakfast.
Presumably these poor buggers had nothing better to do.
They turned up to be fed a bit of election-year fare – about housing affordability, for example.
But he caught everyone out when he started talking about mammoths being found encased in ice – “effectively quick frozen” – and being so well preserved that in at least one case, blood flowed as the beast defrosted.
Lower Hutt Mayor Ray Wallace said the discussion was worth having.
“I think it will capture people’s imaginations. And after all, 20 years ago if we’d said kiwis would be back in Rimutaka Forest Park, people would have laughed at us.”
Alf suggests Trev take a peek at the stuff about moa in the on-line NZ Encyclopaedia.
Scientists can extract ancient DNA from moa bones. They will never be able to recreate a moa, as the DNA exists in small, damaged fragments, and most is mitochondrial DNA, which only contains a tiny amount of the total moa genetic code.
But let’s humour the bugger and think about some of the consequences of a scientific triumph.
For starters, we can be sure some indigenous persons will put their hands up to demand the creature be renamed.
Alf makes this point on the strength of this information from nzbirds.com..
The name Moa itself is a matter of some interest, study and contention. A review of all the myths and legends by Colenso yielded only one instance where the word was featured, concerning the fires of Tamatea. An old Maori chief, Urupeni Puhara, was recorded as saying: “The Moa was not the name by which the great bird that lived in this country was known to my ancestors. The name was Te Kura or the red bird; and it was only known as Moa after pakeha said so”. It was noted that Moa was the name for a domestic fowl in much of Polynesia, which if this was indeed the name given by Maori, is somewhat ironical.
Next, our indigenous persons will be claiming the creature as taonga and making a great deal of fuss about their mauri and cultural rights.
At that point the whole exercise of bringing the bird back to life will become a huge waste of money (public money, presumably).
A treaty claim will be lodged to permit the tangata whenua to do what they did before the Pakeha turned up and turn the bird into kai.
And what then?
The information at nzbirds.com goes on to tell us…
It is now accepted that Maori hunted these birds to extinction.
So maybe Trev should have second thoughts and try to bring some other creature back from extinction.
The laughing owl, for example.
Alf can imagine this creature having a great chuckle when it hears one of Trev’s speeches.