Geoscience Reference
In-Depth Information
coypu as a gentle beast, wary even of the ducks which got into its farm pens (Savory
1953:90-93). He held the sporting rights on a Brundall marsh, and on returning
from the war found that the invading coypu had done a good job. What was once a
boggy thicket, difficult to shoot over, was now 'Coypu Marsh', with only reeds and
yellow iris thriving around open water:
The coypu had…turned the marsh into the most delightful little duck swamp
with little pools leading into big pools…. It was the perfect teal shoot…. [T]
he coypu had done a good job, and they kept on doing it and keeping the
open water from growing up.
(Savory 1956:83-84)
Savory was writing here in the mid-1950s, and his positive view of the coypu was
consistently echoed by Day, who supported this 'Great South American Marsh Rat'
as a good ecological influence and an ally against officialdom. The coypu's
vegetation clearing was to be welcomed—'It is a thousand shames that whenever
one appears some lout with a gun immediately shoots it'—and Day (1953:154) hoped
that it would become 'a permanent and truly wild Broadland animal'. Coypus
deserved 'every protection. They can certainly become a charming, useful and
attractive addition to our wild life' (Day 1951:56). The creature added 'a primeval
echo of an older and larger, but vanished, fauna' (Day 1951:181), restoring rather
than invading the spirit of the region. When the official cull began, Day took the
side of the coypu as both a victim of officialdom and a thorn in its side. The coypu,
and Day, become part of a roguish ecology resistant to the bureaucrat:
The coypu became not only a menace to the farmer, but a little godsend to
the chair-bound 'rural experts' of Whitehall, who never by any chance get
mud on their boots. The coypu was a wonderful excuse for orders, instructions
and memos in quadruplicate.
Day (1967:182) gleefully noted that 'the coypu beat them every time. He bred,
increased and travelled!' The coypu knew Broadland better than the officials, could
move ahead of their men, and if the 1962 campaign killed many, Day reported in
Portrait of the Broads that he had seen them breeding again in 1965-6. For Day the
cull was less about environmental management than an excuse for officialdom and
bureaucracy to interfere in local ecology, and he applauded the coypu's stubborn
survival, allying himself and the animal in a maverick ecology, refusing to be
properly subject to others:
He is probably here for good. He is harmless to man and will only attack you
if you attack him. Incidentally he is good to eat and, when roasted, very much
like roast pork. If you attempt to skin one, cut the skin down the backbone,
not on the belly. Thus you will obtain the best fur.
(Day 1967:183)
Search WWH ::

Custom Search