In te ao Māori, the kiore (Pacific rat or Rattus exulans) is a distinguished travel companion who recalls migratory history, Oceanic homelands and distinct ancestral values. Yet for European settlers, kiore are indistinguishable from the two northern-world varieties of rat brought to Aotearoa/New Zealand from the late eighteenth century. Rodents of all kinds have long been viewed by settlers as mundane, dirty, disease-ridden, destructive of agricultural crops and “native” nature, and disposed towards rubbish and refuse. Kiore numbers declined rapidly due to competition with acclimatised European fauna and kiore were thought to have become extinct by the early twentieth century, before remnant populations were discovered. While the ongoing value of kiore to iwi is intermittently acknowledged, care for kiore is more largely framed by the settler state as being counter to the flourishing of life systems. Indeed, rats have been cast as a target species in the world-first Predator Free 2050 campaign unveiled with fanfare by the New Zealand government in 2016. Predator Free 2050 seeks to erase the memory of catastrophic changes to the lifeworld that have unfolded in Aotearoa/New Zealand since European arrival, controlling rats as a means of controlling remembrance. Because rats are associative creatures, however, they transmit striking teachings about the language of the pest and the stakes of stowaway memory.
Subjectslanguage of the pest
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