In a country that is totally cut-off from everywhere else,
that ahs only bats for land mammals, New Zealand’s large
number of species of birds is quite an impressive
For more than 65 million years, New Zealand was
isolated from any other country and became a nation for
When in the 1770s Captain James Cook arrived on the island,
he mentioned that the song of the birds was quite loud to
the point of deafening. The large dwindling of the number of
birds on the island is largely blamed on the arrival of the
Maori and the subsequent settlement of the Europeans. In
other words, Man is responsible for this catastrophe.
Before the arrival of the first human settlers in New
Zealand, there was an extraordinary diverse number of
specialized birds on the island. Insects, reptiles, and
birds had the ecological role of what normally would have
been that of certain mammals such as kangaroos, rodents, and
moles in New Zealand. Only two of the three species of bats
the nation can boast of in terms of land mammals can be seen
The harpagornis and moa were hunted to extinction when
humans came to New Zealand approximately 700 years ago.
island’s unusual and unique ecology was jeopardized by the
arrival of humans.
Destruction to natural habitat and the introduction of other
animals caused the most damage on the island, particularly
that of different species of rats. The kiore or Polynesian
rat was brought in by the Maori while the black rat and
brown rat was later brought in by European settlers.
were also cats, dogs, mice, weasels, stoats, pigs, deer,
goats, Australian possums, and hedgehogs. The most to suffer
from this invasion were the flightless birds.
The most obvious consequence of this is that a great number
species of birds are now extinct, and many others remain
alarmingly endangered. Many different species of birds are
now allowed only on offshore islands, or are fenced within
"ecological islands" which are free from predators. Today,
New Zealand is the world’s leading expert in the methods
needed to save those species on the brink of disappearing
In the early period of settlement by Europeans, many species
of birds were brought in for the purpose of sport and to
create an illusion of being “back home” for the settlers.
The former reason is because New Zealand was unlike any of
the countries the earlier settlers had originated from.
Because of habitat loss, the historical use of some bird
species as a food source by the Maori and the predation of
some other species of New Zealand birds by introduced
species of some larger and more aggressive birds has also
threatened the indigenous birds’ extinction.
Today, the kakapo, takahe, mohua, kiwi, and kokako are the
subject of huge efforts of conservation.
The salvation of
the Chatham Islands’ black robin, largely due to Don
Merton’s tireless efforts, is a well documented success
story of conservation success story.