Brushtail possums were first introduced into New Zealand from Australia in 1837 to establish a fur industry. By 1900 the reported damage to native flora and fauna, crops and orchards prompted the government to commission investigations by two of the country's leading botanists. It was agreed that the potential long-term effects on the environment if left unchecked would be devastating.
By the 1940’s, evidence of damage by possums to New Zealand’s forest increased. The need for action on a national scale was recognized, and in 1951 a bounty was placed on the animal, but this did little to control the increasing and expanding population of possums.
In the early 1960's possums had spread to 84% of the country.
Today possums are considered the major animal pest in New Zealand with the number of possums estimated to exceed 70 million (twice the number of sheep). Possums are ravenous eaters that consume a staggering amount of native vegetation, which is in excess of 21, 000 tonnes per day.
The idea of blending Merino wool and possum fibres was first developed in 1992 by a New Zealand knitter. Merino Possum knitwear was developed as a by-product of the possum control program, making the Merino possum blend an environmentally sound choice.
The unique characteristics
The possum fibre has a hollow core. The significance of this is two fold, firstly, the hollow core traps a tunnel of air that provides extra-ordinary warmth (up to 30% more than 100% wool garment).
The only other animal with a hollow core fibre is the Polar Bear. Secondly, the hollow core creates a fibre lighter than most other natural fibres. In practice by blending 40% possum fibre into the yarn you can reduce the overall weight of a garment by more than 20%.
Merino Possum yarn is highly resistant to pilling.
Therapeutic benefits. There is scientific evidence that an enzyme in the possum fibre helps combat skin conditions like athlete's foot and eczema.
Moisture vapour transmission - Both possum and Merino fibres have a complex as the cuticle. Merino Possum fabric will absorb and expel moisture vapour form the external environment or the body microclimate in changing conditions.
For further information on the control programs put in place by the New Zealand Government, please refer to the following websites: