Click here to listen to the interview.
The answer, at least ecologically, is never to introduce a larger animal. It’s one of the lessons of RODENTS OF UNUSUAL SIZE, a thoughtful documentary about good intentions, imported rodents, and what happens when the one leads to the other and coastlines start disappearing.
The subject is nutria, the South American rodent plucked from its native habitat in the 1930s by the Tabasco Sauce king as an act of compassion for his fellow Louisianans during the Great Depression. As these things often happen, the plucky rodents, imported in order to fuel a new kind of fur-industry in a controlled environment, found its way into the swampland, where is promptly went forth and multiplied. The ecological impact of this species, with no predators to keep it in check, eventually threatened coastlines with erosion, and inland areas, deprived of the mitigating effects of an intervening swampland between them and the Gulf of Mexico, with stronger storms.
When I spoke with Quinn Costello, who made the doc along with Chris Metzler and Jeff Springer, I started by offering my appreciation for the way he depicted my native state, before we moved on to the film’s Cajun philosopher/hunter, Thomas Gonzalez; how hipsters are helping save the state; and adventures with a stunt nutria named Nuttie.
Be warned. Things happen to nutria in the course of the film that are gruesome. Very gruesome. Two words: skinning contest. We finished up our talk with Costello discussing how he decided how much to show of nutria processing, as well as the putative effects of concentrated hunting on the evolution of a beasts that holds a grudge; experiencing Cajun Mardi Gras; and his favorite is to eat a nutria.
Quinn’s previous work includes STANDING ON SACRED GROUND, THE NEW ENVIRONMENTALISTS, and CROSSING THE DIVIDE.