Nothing Funny About Easter Bunny

Great spotted kiwi chick and Easter Egg. Photo Willowbank Wildlife Reserve webIt's part of Easter every year but it's not cute or cuddly nor is it a friend of farmers. The NZ Biosecurity Institute says it's a costly example of the effects of introduced plants and pests and it's high time the Easter Bunny was replaced.
Institute President, Rebecca Kemp said her members think it would be appropriate to find a heroic icon for Easter rather than the rabbit along with its villainous history in New Zealand.
The NZ Biosecurity Institute is the professional training and networking organisation for people involved in biosecurity. Its 450 members work for research organisations, educational institutions, regional councils and government departments.
All are involved in protecting NZ from invasive species.
Ms Kemp reckons it's high time the kiwi flew at Easter.
"The symbols around Easter have come from many historic and cultural origins, so why not put our own slant on Easter?" she said.
"The obvious choice would be the kiwi. It lays one of the largest eggs of any animal in the world, which is entirely appropriate for Easter".
Rebecca-KempMs Kemp said equally significant is that it is endangered because of the effects of introduced predators.
"We're not trying to replace the Easter Bunny with an Easter Kiwi, but to give the commercial side of Easter a more New Zealand emphasis, and in so doing, help raise awareness of all pests, both plant and animal."
Every year the Biosecurity Institute's members spend hundreds of hours controlling or managing the risks to the economy and the environment of the effects of introduced pests.
"This is work which costs the country hundreds of millions of dollars each year through control, research and border control budgets. This money is coming out of all New Zealanders' pockets," she said.
The idea of replacing the Easter Bunny is not new.
In Canterbury, Institute members have in the past promoted a competition at Easter asking people to suggest a more appropriate icon to replace the Easter Bunny. Easter Kiwi was usually the frontrunner.
New Zealand is not alone in the call.
Australia has run similar promotions resulting in their Easter Bilby which has caught on to various degrees.
"Like the Kiwi, the Bilby is endangered so what better Easter icon," Ms Kemp said.
NZBI members in the course of their work have been involved in other creative ways of promoting their animal and plant pest management work.
The call to replace the Easter Bunny is one of many animal and plant pest awareness programmes carried out over the years.
Previously at the annual MacKenzie Highland Show bar-b-qued rabbit sausages (hot rabbits rather than hot dogs) and bunny burgers have been an alternative approach to highlighting the rabbit scourge that infests Canterbury.
In Northland, event snacks made from pests as a way of raising awareness of this issue have included wasp larvae ice-cream, as well as possum and goat meat pies, crackers topped with possum pate, wild rabbit sausages and breakfast sausages flavoured with spicy native plants.
Chocolate kiwiAll are friendly ways to promote the more serious side of Institute members' work.
"It is very hard to get the message across that although these look like cute cuddly creatures they are not welcome here".
Ms Kemp said an animal or plant is a pest because of where it is, not what it is.
The rabbit haemorrhagic disease (RHD) introduced into New Zealand illegally in 1997 is still having some effect on keeping rabbit numbers down, but Ms Kemp said Canterbury and Otago members are reporting 70 per cent of rabbits now being immune to it, so it is no longer the major player it was.
Ms Kemp said It is timely that Institute members from local and government authorities, and research organisations have recently been involved managing the discovery of a pest which must never be allowed to establish here - the Queensland fruit fly.
By Chris Macann,