An existential threat


The other night on TV3’s news there was a report about DOC’s big 1080 operation in the South Island. In it, the reporter said “…because these introduced pests pose an existential threat to our native wildlife…”

Was a very clever line, or was it a bad malapropism? What do you think?

As I understand it, “existential” means something like “pertaining to existence”, but along the lines of the purpose or meaning of existence, rather than the very fact of existence itself.

So when I saw the report I couldn’t help but imagine this conversation down on Codfish Island:


Ferret: Hey, kakapo!

Kakapo: WTF are you doing here, Slim? I thought your lot had been wiped so we could live and breed in peace, every decade or so.

Ferret (smirking): Not a bit of it, sunshine. We’re pretty good swimmers you know. Besides, those buggers from DOC were dropping 1080 all over our patch again, but they’re too wussy to drop it out here around KAAKAAAPOOR (sarcastically).

Kakapo: So what happens now? I suppose you’re going to tell me you’re pregnant too…

Ferret: Yup! And we don’t give a damn about genetic diversity like those hand-wringing scientists. Don’t go thinking I’ll be whelping 10 retards either – this lot’ll have you and yours for breakfast and they’ll be dropping litters of their own before the year’s out.

Kakapo (sighing): Oh, OK so me and my rellies are pretty much buggered then…

Ferret: ‘Fraid so. Hey aren’t you that Sirroco character who tried to shag Mark Carwardine?

Kakapo: What of it?

Ferret:  Well if that doesn’t show what pathetically useless birds you are, I don’t know what does. You only feel like sex once in a blue moon after a good feed of rimu fruit. Even then you end up trying to get it on with the wrong species. Us ferrets, on the other hand, can rustle up a litter on the smell of an oily rag.

Kakapo (hunches wings, droops head a little further): Ah bloody hell, what a waste of all that Comalco money trying to pair me off with my cousins and make me hop around looking cute for Steven bloody Fry. Sanctimonious git.

Ferret: Extinction’s your middle name, sport.

Kakapo (exhales a half-hearted boom; shuffles to the edge of a bluff; glares back at ferret): You’re welcome to the place, mate. I never cared for it much anyway. (Tips off edge, plummets toward rocks below)

Ferret: What am I going to eat now?

Kakapo (nearing terminal velocity): Try some rimu fruit, sucker. Next crop’s due in 2018, LOL…. (hits rocks).

That’s what I’d call an existential threat, but I’m not sure if it’s what the reporter meant.



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