NYT writes an obituary for Trevor the Duck

When the male mallard Trevor the Duck landed on the tiny island of Niue, administratively part of New Zealand, I was both thrilled and enchanted. How did he get there? Who knows?

And would he survive? Niue has no standing water, and Trevor gravitated towards a small, muddy puddle. But the locals pitched in, feeding him, and even topping off his pond (the Niue Fire Department get kudos here).  And, as I’ve recounted here, I offered to pay expenses to move Trevor to New Zealand, an offer communicated to the government by Heather Hastie. Trevor would be better off there, as NZ has bigger ponds and lots of friends and mates for Trevor. Sadly, they turned me down, citing quarantine restrictions, but they did ask a team of Kiwi vets to check out the duck when they visited Niue. He was pronounced healthy.

Sadly, Trevor was killed last week by a dog, and the heartwarming saga has come to an end. The New York Times even wrote Trevor an obituary (click on screenshot):

It’s a nice piece:

He was internationally crowned the “world’s loneliest duck,” but that clearly wasn’t true. There haven’t been many ducks as loved as Trevor.

The tiny Pacific island nation of Niue, about 1,500 miles northeast of New Zealand, mourned this week after Trevor — its beloved, and only, duck — was killed by a stray dog near the roadside puddle that had been his home since January 2018. Niue’s 1,600 residents had grown quite fond of their mysterious visitor, working every day to keep him alive by feeding him or refilling his rapidly evaporating puddle.

. . . . “He captured many hearts,” said Rae Finlay, chief executive of the Niue Chamber of Commerce. “And even the rooster, the chicken and the wekawere looking a little forlorn today wandering around near the dry puddle.”

. . . But unlike New York’s famous Mandarin duck, [JAC: my sister says that New Yorkers call that duck “Mandarin Patinkin”] an object of fascination for photographers but a generally self-sufficient visitor, Trevor’s survival took a village.

The puddle he lived in was no ordinary fixture of the island. During the dry season, it had to be constantly refilled by government officials, the fire department or locals ferrying barrels of water in their trucks.

At first, people fed him bread, but they researched and learned he was better off with the likes of oats, rice and corn. They decided to name him Trevor after Trevor Mallard, a New Zealand politician (who offered his condolences on Saturday).

. . . Still, living hundreds of miles away from any other duck wasn’t exactly ideal for Trevor, and residents debated what they could do for him. They considered flying in another duck as a mate, but the puddle could barely accommodate one, let alone two — and, as noted, Niue is a lousy environment for ducks. They thought about sending Trevor to more hospitable New Zealand, where he may have come from (though he could also have hailed from another Pacific island like Tonga), but there were logistical and biosecurity issues.

Eventually, his celebrity expanded beyond the island. When Claire Trevett, a senior writer at The New Zealand Herald, asked for directions while visiting Niue, someone told her to “turn right after the duck,” she wrote for the newspaper in September.

After that, Trevor’s story rapidly spread to other international publications. Visitors to Niue (which gets about 9,000 per year) began clamoring to meet the duck and snap selfies with him, Ms. Finlay said. Trevor’s Facebook page, run by Ms. Finlay, has more than 1,500 fans, almost matching the island’s population.

But the deepest bond he formed was with the island’s residents. Coral Pasisi said her two children had read stories about ducks but had never seen one before, so “our trips to fill his pond were a little bit like visiting the zoo for free.” They even visited him on Christmas.

“Thank you for gracing our shores for a year and for bringing my children a lot of joy,” she wrote on Facebook.

This is ineffably sad. I still think that the government of New Zealand could have had empathy for one lonely duck, and tested him for disease or even put him in quarantine. Now he’s dead. Yes, he was “only a duck,” but the life of that duck meant everything to him, and that’s what people don’t seem to realize, except for the inhabitants of Niue who cared for him.

I’m a big fan of New Zealand, but this time they dropped the ball.

42 Comments

  1. David Duncan
    Posted January 30, 2019 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    “How did he get there? Who knows?”

    Perhaps he traveled most of the way by ship and flew the last led.

  2. Randall Schenck
    Posted January 30, 2019 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    Some Islands have an extreme view and accompanying regulations on importing animals, plants and just about everything. I saw this in Hawaii and also Japan. Some of their concerns are justified but sometimes their extreme rules on these things become excuses. Let’s take the easy way out and we’re are sticking to it. Sometimes it is over the top.

    • BJ
      Posted January 30, 2019 at 9:11 am | Permalink

      I doubt it would have been terribly difficult to take one duck and put him in a pond, so I don’t think they were looking for an out here. They were just following their (quite justified, from what I understand of their delicate ecosystems) regulations, and I think they always follow those regulations. Whether it’s one duck or some new species of snake, I don’t think there’s a case where these extremely strict countries are willing to relax their rules. I rather respect that, having a law, they enforce it equally. All ducks should be equal under the law 😛

      Hell, if, say, Australia wanted to make things easier on themselves, they wouldn’t have caused an international media incident by quarantining Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s dog, but they did not back down from that one. I was pretty impressed by Australia’s refusal to cater to some entitled celebrities in that case.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted January 30, 2019 at 9:30 am | Permalink

        I do not question the general idea of Island regulations and I am well aware of them in some areas. However, some of their regs are primitive and over the top. EXAMPLE: the 4 month quarantine on any animals into Hawaii that went on for years. More recently they have finally changed this to allow pets with all the proper shots and documentation to avoid this 4 month jail. Japan has some of the most strict laws on bringing in any agricultural products, even soil. We attempted to bring Xmas trees in for the troops in the overseas areas. The only place we almost always failed was Japan. We had no problems in Korea, Philippines even Hawaii but in Japan, they almost always burned our trees. We followed all the rules including fumigating all the trees but still….

        • Posted January 30, 2019 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

          I think this is entirely justified. If it were possible, the controls should be even more extreme. Avian diseases have wiped out much of the native Hawaiian avifauna. It is impossible to vaccinate against all diseases, and not all diseases are currently known. And some insects can survive careless fumigation.

          The United States has lost its chestnut trees (a keystone species in eastern forests) due to an introduced disease that would not have been bothered in the least by fumigation. Japan has native conifers and your Christmas trees might well have been carriers of some obscure fungal disease that is not a problem in the US but for which the Japanese trees have no resistance. Surely you would not want to risk destroying entire ecosystems for the momentary pleasure of a Christmas tree.

          The US is in the process of losing most of its ash trees and most of its iconic hemlocks thanks to careless importation of non-native pests. Islands are even more sensitive to invasion.

          • mikeyc
            Posted January 30, 2019 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

            I remember my grandmother’s sadness when all the Elm trees died in our state (CT). I still recall the beautiful tree lined streets in my town that went completely bare in about three years because of the blight. These regulations are needed, but I feel it’s a bit like trying to hold the tide back with a broom; very leaky, especially since so many people just don’t see why they can’t import the things they want.

          • Randall Schenck
            Posted January 30, 2019 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

            You are certainly free to have your opinion and you as well as the others can ignore evidence provided, but just saying the sky might fall if they don’t have the regulation is pure speculation. I specified that many other areas accepted the trees and far as I can tell you none of them have been wiped out by the import of a few trees. The facts of Japans laws on imports are as much to protect their own farmers and markets and everyone knows this. Hawaii’s regulations on pets was also more of a simple keep them out than any real problem. The concern for them was said to be rabies but that was an excuse and they knew it. That is why they changed the law. The loss of the elm trees years ago and the current loss of ash, was likely to happen regardless of import regulations. If you can specify what regulation would have prevented these, then fire away.

            • Posted January 30, 2019 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

              “…you as well as the others can ignore evidence provided, but just saying the sky might fall if they don’t have the regulation is pure speculation”

              I don’t think we are the ones ignoring the evidence. The sky has fallen multiple times already. Sure, the regulations are not 100% effective, and maybe your particular trees didn’t cause an ecological disaster, but you could not have known that in advance, and these are not reasons to weaken the protection.

              A complete ban on importing trees, such as Japan has, and perhaps a quarantine for imported wood products, would probably have saved our elms, our chestnuts, our hemlocks, and our ash trees. Once the genie is out of the bottle, there is no going back. So it makes sense to enforce very strict rules about this.

              • Randall Schenck
                Posted January 30, 2019 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

                Again, just generalities and nothing to go with it. I will repeat since it is apparent no one listens – The Xmas tree issue was – we followed all the regulations including fumigation and extensive documentation. It was their regulations, not mine. In Hawaii, do you see lots of rabies? Give me a break. You do nothing but guess and speculate. This is real science eh? The beetle killing the ash trees most likely came from asia in packing material, such as pallets or crates, who knows. Maybe we can regulate a cure for cancer as well.

              • BJ
                Posted January 30, 2019 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

                People keep supplying actual evidence of events that have taken place, and you just keep saying words like “generalities,” “speculate,” and insult people for not agreeing with you. And then you tell them that they’re not scientific, but you are. And you tell them the real reasons they believe what they believe, even if they tell you it’s for different reasons.

                Why can’t you just have a discussion? Nobody here was being aggressive. They were just disagreeing with you.

              • BJ
                Posted January 30, 2019 at 10:31 pm | Permalink

                @Lou Jost

                Just so you know, that last comment wasn’t directed at you. I’m 99% sure you’d figure that out, but I didn’t want to leave that 1% chance hanging there…

              • Posted January 30, 2019 at 11:56 pm | Permalink

                Thanks for the clarification, that was thoughtful of you, since sometimes it can be hard to tell who a commenter is addressing. In this case, though, it was pretty obvious.

            • mikeyc
              Posted January 30, 2019 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

              Jesus Randall, why the aggro? The fact is in many places around the world we’ve discovered that transporting animals or plants can have big impacts on native systems, whether natural or not. The fact that species like the American Elm and Chestnut were wiped out by introduced pathogens is a clear warning to take importation seriously. Japan did a wise thing in telling GIs to keep ridiculous traditions at home.

              • BJ
                Posted January 30, 2019 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

                He’s apparently very angry with anyone for diagreeing. There were these trees once, you see…

              • Posted January 30, 2019 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

                I wouldn’t call this tradition ridiculous. I adore Christmas trees (though I’d actually prefer mere branches, because I feel sorry for the trees). But traditions can always be modified when needed. Japanese florists can surelyl offer some replacement.

          • Posted January 30, 2019 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

            I agree. Where I live, it is a continent, and nevertheless land is being taken over by Ailanthus. Because decades ago someone thought it was a great idea to import it for decoration. And our Black Sea has succumbed to an Atlantic ctenophore. Sometimes I think that even if humans did not consume or destroy directly anything, they would cause a 6th extinction simply by moving other species around.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted January 30, 2019 at 9:51 am | Permalink

        You know those Aussies, BJ — hell, one time they even quarantined Frank Sinatra in his hotel room. 🙂

        • BJ
          Posted January 30, 2019 at 10:14 am | Permalink

          Never even heard of that one, but it seems interesting. Can’t believe that’s Joel Edgerton. I didn’t even know he’s been acting that for that long, but he was apparently in Attack of the Clones the year before.

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted January 30, 2019 at 10:55 am | Permalink

            I like that movie. Hopper as Frank, Melanie Griffith as the soon-to-be third Mrs. Sinatra, and a very young Rose Byrne as Edgerton’s love interest. It’s got a lotta charm and spirit.

            Based on actual events, as they say.

            • BJ
              Posted January 30, 2019 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

              I’ll check it out! But have you done your duty yet with regard to The Lobster?

              • Ken Kukec
                Posted January 30, 2019 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

                I had planned to watch it last weekend, but had a buddy with a medical emergency. I’ll watch it this week, fer sure.

              • BJ
                Posted January 30, 2019 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

                Sorry to hear that 😦 Hope he’s OK!

      • mikeyc
        Posted January 30, 2019 at 10:02 am | Permalink

        These kinds of import rules sometimes seem harsh and rather silly but they are in place for very good reasons. It only takes one non-compliance to introduce a new disease, wipe out an entire population or destroy a crop. We’ve learned hard lessons. It was unfortunate for Trevor but at least they let him live on the island.

        • BJ
          Posted January 30, 2019 at 10:07 am | Permalink

          Exactly. I bet places like Florida wish they had instituted such laws. Invasive species all over the place, and their ecosystems aren’t surrounded by water on all sides like Australia, New Zealand, and Japan.

        • Posted January 30, 2019 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

          I do not see how Trevor could have wiped out anything given there are already plenty of mallards (introduced) on NZ. Rather this was just an example of bureaucratic rigidity.

          • BJ
            Posted January 30, 2019 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

            But he could have any number of diseases, bacteria, etc. that is not found over there. Who knows? I’m sure they know far more about this than we do. Or maybe it was bureaucratic rigidity, but when it comes to laws like this, I’d prefer rigidity to randomly appointed bureaucrats making case-by-case decisions. The rigidity is the much safer option.

            • Randall Schenck
              Posted January 30, 2019 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

              You prefer rigidity because that is easy. Just make the regulation and that’s it. For one duck, Are you kidding. They could bring the thing to NZ and keep it isolated until they know it has no diseases. Just throwing out opinion with nothing to go with, it is kind of like making regulation and then hiding.

              • BJ
                Posted January 30, 2019 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

                “You prefer rigidity because that is easy. ”

                I gave a completely different reason for why I prefer it, but, as you often do, you’ve come up with the real reason someone disagrees with you, which is always significantly worse.

                And my opinion had plenty to go with it. I’m sure if we were talking about Trump and his appointees not enforcing EPA policy, you would be singing a different tune. But your opinion and all your evidence amounts to a story about trees.

  3. Barry Lyons
    Posted January 30, 2019 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    “The life of that duck meant everything to him” — love that.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted January 30, 2019 at 10:00 am | Permalink

      Yeah, sometimes the pathetic fallacy really works.

  4. BJ
    Posted January 30, 2019 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    That’s very nice, and I love that the community and local government came together to help poor Trevor.

    Since I don’t know much about ducks, I have two questions: (1) How did he get there? (2) Why couldn’t he fly back to wherever it is he lived before? Of course, all this is moot if he was the pet of someone on the island, but that seems highly unlikely for many reasons.

    • mikeyc
      Posted January 30, 2019 at 10:03 am | Permalink

      My guess is he had no intention of flying to the island and was, instead, blown to it in a storm. That’s how it is thought many island birds arrive.

      • BJ
        Posted January 30, 2019 at 10:10 am | Permalink

        Are ducks not very good at knowing how to get back to their original locations? I know that some animals are and some aren’t.

        Maybe Trevor was just an extreme introvert. Maybe he flew to that island and said to himself, “ah, I finally have some peace and quiet.” Maybe he was the mad genius duck in his flock, poorly understood by his lesser colleagues and sick of their shit.

        • mikeyc
          Posted January 30, 2019 at 10:19 am | Permalink

          Dunno. Lost in a storm, probably made it by the skin of his teeth… er…bill, no idea where he was and figured, since he was getting all that attention (and, I presume, noms), why leave?

        • Posted January 30, 2019 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

          We likely all know the story of the ugly duckling. But what would be a more important lesson would be if the ugly duckling *stayed* that way and was learned to be tolerated or even loved *despite it*.

          • BJ
            Posted January 30, 2019 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

            Yes, instead, the moral of the story is “don’t worry if you’re ugly now because you might be totally sexy one day.”

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted January 30, 2019 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

      How far can ducks fly? Niue is a long way from any other island (270 miles from the nearest island in Tonga, and I don’t know if they had ducks).

      My guess would be, he stowed away on a ship.

      cr

      • BJ
        Posted January 30, 2019 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

        Good point! Never thought of that…

  5. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted January 30, 2019 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    It’s a bit sad, but a hazard all ducks face I guess. Trevor would have been just as at-risk in New Zealand, and without a supportive population to look after him. We have stray dogs here, too.

    And if he had gone to NZ, Niue would have lost its ducky* mascot.

    (*Forgot the appropriate adjective there).

    Much as I love to bash New Zealand bureaucracy, I can’t honestly see this as an indictment against them.

    cr

    • mikeyc
      Posted January 30, 2019 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

      Well, since the genus is Anas, I suspect someone somewhere would suggest “Anal”. But not me. Nope, not me.

  6. Posted January 30, 2019 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    I owe Trevor a big thank you. If it weren’t for his navigational misadventure, I’d likely never have learned about this little island.
    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/13/niue-pacific-island-struggling-population-new-zealand

  7. Joseph O'Sullivan
    Posted February 1, 2019 at 6:30 am | Permalink

    Trevor’s situation was sad. I don’t know how much the government of New Zealand could have done within their legal system though. If New Zealand has a strict law controlling the import of non-native species then they politicians and regulators are bound by it. Unless the law has exceptions written in it, the New Zealanders would have been breaking the law. I think the equal application and the integrity of the law is important.

    I saw the fancy Mandarin Duck in Central Park NYC back in October. I had just participated in a squirrel survey and I did some birding after. I was the first to post this sighting on social media.


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