In what may be one of the world’s only examples of a museum dedicated to destroying an animal, New Zealand’s Opossum World is a strange mix of taxidermy showcase, pelt store, and educational center determined to teach visitors about the country’s opossum epidemic. (Editor’s Note: We are aware that the more correct spelling is “possum” but given that the location uses the silent “o” we have used it throughout the entry.)
Beginning with the museum’s unambiguous slogan, “Save a New Zealand tree. Buy Opossum fur products,” the message is clear: opossums are a problem. The bushtail opossum was artificially introduced to the New Zealand ecosystem in a misguided attempt to engineer a fur industry. However since the animal had no natural predators, the opossum population quickly spiraled out of control and is now a serious problem in the country. It is estimated that there are 20 opossums to every New Zealand resident and that they consume around 21,000 tons of foliage a night. This environmental disaster has been dealt with in a number of ways over the years, attempting trapping, offering bounties for the animals, and now it is par for the course to simply poison or shoot them.
While the vigorous dislike of the often adorable opossum is almost comically incongruous, they are a serious problem and Opossum World approaches the issue with the environment in mind. Although this might be hard to tell from the strange displays. Among the odd sights are a stuffed opossum choir that stands on top of a car that has just made one of their kind roadkill, a replica shack covered in pelts with a little taxidermied opossum peeking out the window, and even a graphic series of stuffed figures that walks visitors through the opossum birth process.
The retail portion of Opossum World sells pelts and clothing made of fibers made of opossum fur, which its said is remarkably soft. Whether or not their message of opossum slaughter may be offensive to some, their strange dioramas and convincing argument that the nocturnal beasts are ravaging the local ecosystem should leave visitors clear on one point: opossums are terrible.