Animal welfare complaint laid after possum joeys drowned at school fundraising event

More than 1100 possums were killed at a fundraiser for a south Auckland primary school.
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More than 1100 possums were killed at a fundraiser for a south Auckland primary school.

A school that hosted a fundraiser where baby possums were drowned in a bucket of water has conceded that the method was "not humane".

Friends of Drury School, a parent-run organisation, hosted its annual possum hunt fundraiser in late June.

In total, 1103 possums were killed and their carcasses sold to a fur buyer to benefit Drury School, a semi-rural primary in south Auckland.

The buyer did not take the carcasses of joeys, so any that were found alive in the possums' pouches were killed in "a manner that was believed to be lawful", Drury School's board of trustees said in a statement.

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Waikato animal rights activist Lynley Tulloch attended the event and was horrified to see the joeys being drowned.

She has started a petition to Education Minister Nikki Kaye, calling for a ban to school possum hunts in New Zealand.

"Possum hunting events demonstrate an absolute lack of conscience," she wrote.

"This is made more disturbing as it involves young children who are still in the process of developing their personal values. In an educational context this is completely inappropriate."

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The petition had nearly 6000 signatures on Sunday morning.

Tulloch also complained to the Ministry for Primary Industries, which confirmed it was investigating the event.

The school's board of trustees said in a statement that no primary or intermediate school pupils were involved in the removal or disposal of the joeys.

However, some teenagers were among the volunteers.

"The SPCA has since advised the school that the method used in putting down joeys is not considered humane," the statement said.

"The school has learnt from this and we will be working with the SPCA to ensure that all animal welfare requirements are met in future so that the focus is returned to the commendable intent of the fundraising itself."

Possums are classed as a pest in New Zealand as they threaten the survival of many native plants and birds.

Possums can also be carriers of Bovine tuberculosis, which threatens the country's beef industry.

The Department of Conservation recommends humanely killing possums by shooting or poisoning them or hitting them on the head.

Many rural schools throughout the country hold possum hunts as fundraisers.

In 2012, Uruti School in Taranaki came under fire for holding a best-dressed dead possum competition.

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