Project Possum, a new program offered by a collaboration of New Zealand groups, is promoting possum trapping as a career path for area students. The program would teach trapping methods and fur preparation and marketing of possum pelts.

Susan Karels, the council’s regional Enviroschools co-ordinator, says the training stems from twin desires to offer participants the chance to earn the NCEA credits, as well as create potential job prospects for young Northlanders

It is also a great opportunity to help control a pest which has a significant impact on the region’s environment.

While giving education credits to students, the program would also jumpstart a pilot project for some students interested in starting their own possum trapping business.

Mrs Karels says once the training is complete, Enviroschools Northland and several students from Te Kura Taumata o Panguru would begin a pilot programme that would see them set up a small business to trap local possums and sell their fur or skins.

The New Zealand Association for Environmental Education had already contributed to the pilot via the purchase of 20 humane possum traps worth about $400 which the students could use until they had paid for them through fur/skin sales.

Depending on the success of the pilot, it could be rolled out to other Northland schools, possibly as early as next year.

I’ve always admired New Zealanders in their management of natural resources. They have been extremely successful raising and marketing red deer, promoting hunting and fishing for exotic and trophy species, and producing some of the best wool sheep in the world. Now they’re finding ways to profit from exotic opossums, which are discarded as an essentially worthless commodity in many trapping circles.

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