Imminent extinction for august snail

The Department of Conservation says that the powelliphanta augustus snails are not faring so well in their new homes. Up to 40% mortality is evident in the new populations established just within the last 2 years.Over 6000 snails have been gathered up and thrown in DOC fridges for the crime of daring to live on top of millions of dollars of coal.These endemic snails have evolved very slowly to live on their coal-laden mountain, and now with their unique habitat destroyed, they face a very uncertain future.

The Stuff article says, “DOC’s goal was to establish at least one self-sustaining population.” Ironically, we had one of them – it was Mt Augustus.

Other relocated snail populations have not fared well either. This scientific report from DOC records the fate of eleven released placostylus hongii snails near Whangarei. All died.

Frog has also learned that the snails remaining in DOC fridges are not mating, which casts doubt on the viability of captive populations. The hatched snails mentioned in the news report must have come from collected eggs.

With relocated populations failing, captive populations not breeding, and insufficient original habitat to retain a viable population, one would have to suggest the species are functionally extinct.

Much of our augustus friends’ home is now greenhouse gas meaning the impact of destroying their home goes way beyond them. The IPCC concluded last year that 20-30% of species may be at risk of extinction from climate change impacts within this century if mean global temperatures exceed 2-3 °C.

With Solid Energy is fuelling the dozers ready for Happy Valley, we stand to lose the powelliphanta patrikensis snails, a world-class wetland, more great spotted kiwi, and release millions more tonnes of carbon. When will we learn?

13 Comments Posted

  1. Snails may not attract great public support, but it’s habitat could. This issue was unfortunately turned into a debate about ‘snails vs. coal’ .

    Anybody who has taken some time to wander about the stunningly beautiful area Solid Energy is intent on wrecking might feel it’s worth saving.

    “Might I suggest pan fry with oil and garlic. Survival of the fittest. ”

    If you actually advocate ‘survival of the fittest’, will you advocate for a law change that allows me to kill and eat you (or possibly feed you to snails, if you are on the unappetising sort)?

  2. Yeah, this is one of the things with not having any ‘charismatic megafauna’ like say, gorillas around. *Everyone* loves them, and in ‘saving’ them in the wild, every other species that is part of that ecosystem is saved too…arg!

  3. “The best way to ensure their numbers is to farm them”

    Quite apart from Kahikatea’s comments, which are quite valid, the issue is whether it is just “numbers” we are after. There has been a shift in conservation thinking from looking at each species individually to an ecosystem approach. This means that instead of thinking “we must save the kiwi” (actually easy enough to do, just stick them in zoos), we are now saying that what we must save is the kiwi, in its habitat, interacting with the other species it interacts with, and doing what kiwis do. A kiwi in a zoo or a farm is not a real kiwi. I see captivity as only a short term measure designed to breed up the population and then return it to the wild.

  4. Well said, The Optimist! We can’t let animals stand in the way of our desire to extract coal. Solid Energy has the right to make any flora or fauna (regardless of how slimy or cute) extinct so that we don’t have to bother looking at renewable energy.

    And every time we wipe out a species we should celebrate its demise by making the last of its kind into a hearty meal, the way sweetdisorder would do. Make mine a pan-fried Hector’s Dolphin!

  5. Its nice to see the true face of the National Party show itself on this blog. My only hope is that people like you have some say in Government. Then National really will be gone by lunchtime.

  6. # IceBaby Says:
    November 28th, 2008 at 5:51 pm

    > The best way to ensure their numbers is to farm them.

    of all the huge number of species that it would be useful to farm, that people have tried to farm, only a very few were successful. Most species simply can’t be domesticated successfully. As such, it is more likely that the fact farmed species do not go extinct is largely to do with the resilience of the small number of species that can be successfully domesticated, rather than the attempts at farming actually saving them.

  7. I agree. Why are we even expending precious electrons (in a self-inflicted power shortage) talking about these snails?

    Solid Energy needs to either change its name to Snail Refrigeration Ltd, or it needs to switch off the fridges and get down to business, coal business. If environmentalists want to keep the snails then they can do it on their own money. Meanwhile, the rest of us have an economy to run.

    My feeling is that very few environmentalists would be willing to keep these things in their own fridges, no matter how good they taste with garlic.

    So I say again, Mine that coal!

  8. >>The best, and seemingly only, way to ensure their numbers is to leave them and their habitat alone.

    Let’s be realistic here. Over 80% of the population care little for other species, let alone the non-cuddly, slimy, unattractive varieties. At best, humans are too chauvinistic paying virtually no heed to the plight of any other species. Economic and population growth requirements far outweigh any zany biodiversity agenda. It is human needs, first, second, third and last. Nothing else is on the radar. Having said that, there would certainly be more sympathy if the predicament applied to a cuddly mammal, such as a unique species of panda.
    Of course, it may be reasonably argued that DNA samples could be taken so that threatened species could be ‘re-introduced’ at some later, more appropriate, time. The problem with this line of thinking is how to ‘re-establish’ the natural habitat. The most likely outcome would be a rather superficial man-made habitat that has the purpose of providing a rather contrived refuge for threatened or otherwise extinct species. This only pays lip service to maintaining biodiversity.

  9. IceBaby : “The best way to ensure their numbers is to farm them.”

    Not Powelliphanta patrikensis (this very ancient snail) it seems.

    The best, and seemingly only, way to ensure their numbers is to leave them and their habitat alone.

  10. The lesson here is that if you want a species to become extinct, let a government department handle it.

    The best way to ensure their numbers is to farm them.

  11. In the UK the endangered Desmoulin’s whorl snail was relocated from Newbury to make way for the infamous bypass, but the refugees died out at their new site. It’s not looking good for the august snail.

  12. Might I suggest pan fry with oil and garlic. Survival of the fittest. Sadly that does not apply to humans also; else we might see some sector groups finally being responsible for their own lives.

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