Orini Combined School has had to cancel its fund-raising possum hunt one month before the event after online backlash.
The Great Orini Possum Hunt was planned to raise money for a class camp in the Coromandel. However, an international petition sparked a fierce backlash online and they will now hold a disco.
They were hoping to raise $4-5000 over one weekend, but the disco will bring in about $300, trustees chairwoman Tracy Fuller told The Country.
Fuller said the cancellation was due to “personal attacks” received through school email addresses and the school Facebook page, which were “extremely upsetting” for the people involved.
The abuse, which Fuller said was not appropriate to describe, was so bad the school had to temporarily remove its Facebook page.
“We had a month to go before the event and felt the negative social media comments could harm our little school more than the benefits of the fundraiser.”
She said many in the community were extremely upset about the event being cancelled.
“The people commenting on the petition were mainly from overseas and did not seem to realise that in New Zealand possums are a serious pest animal and are a threat to our forests and native wildlife and that we are allowed to shoot them to help control their ever-increasing numbers.”
The petition, which gained more than 13,000 signatures, was started by organisation Lady Freethinker, a non-profit group based in Los Angeles that researches animal cruelty around the world and campaigns against it.
Local ecologist David Riddell said while these people were no doubt well-intentioned, they had little understanding of the New Zealand environment and the damage possums were doing to it.
“Possums not only eat a wide range of vegetation and compete with native birds, they also eat eggs, chicks, and even incubating adults out of nests, and have been known to push kiwi out of their burrows. Not only that they eat a wide range of invertebrates such as wetas and land snails, many of them endangered. Removing possums from an area enhances that area’s overall ecolgoical health and biological diversity.
“It’s sad to see worthy initiatives like this possum hunt cancelled through pressure from city dwellers on the other side of the world.”