New Zealand is one of our world’s most interesting and unique global hotspots housing some of the strangest, fascinating, and endearing types of life.
New Zealand is a series of three main islands relatively close to Australia in the Pacific Ocean. It is a land of highly varied landscapes, ranging from lush forests, to sweeping plains, and even to rugged mountains, all on the relatively small island chain. This southern hemisphere hotspot harbors an incredible amount of endemic species, simply because of it’s relative isolation from the rest of the world, and it’s unique climate and ecosystem. None of New Zealand’s native mammals, amphibians, or reptiles is found anywhere else in the world. Since humans have only populated New Zealand relatively recently, interaction with species is comparatively low, but the threat they have brought to the species there is ludicrously high.
Although human settlement of New Zealand happened relatively late in history, only about 700-800 years ago, the impact that they have wrought is incredibly high. From hunting and gathering of early civilizations, which caused the extinction of native bird species such as the giant moas and eagles, to the more recent development and expansion of human industry, which has been the cause of the large scale deforestation and wetland damage that endangers many species who dwell within that habitat. However, an even greater threat is the invasive species that European settlers brought with them when they came to colonize the islands. These invasive species, about 34 mammal species and hundreds of plant species, have either directly or indirectly been the cause of the extinction of 16 land birds, 1 endemic bat, one fish, at least a dozen invertebrates, and ten plants. Many others only survive in tiny populations on small offshore islands that are untouched by these invaders. The natural habitat of most of these species has been severely reduced, but the areas that remain have measures in place to protect them and the endemic species they contain.
New Zealand, with its picturesque and breathtaking landscapes, also is home to many wonderful, exotic, and strange creatures. None of its wildlife is found anywhere else in the world. 50 species of birds have gone extinct in New Zealand since humans settled on the island hundreds of years ago.
The most famous of the island’s birds is the kiwi, an endemic order of flightless birds completely unique to New Zealand. There are four species of kiwis; tokoeka, great spotted kiwi, little spotted kiwi, and brown kiwi. All four are threatened due to invasive species and habitat loss. These birds are distant cousins of other flightless birds like ostriches and emus. They are more mammal-like with their hairy feathers and are very clearly unique and special animals.
The kakapo is an extremely endangered bird found only in New Zealand. Like the kiwis, it is flightless and strikingly different from the birds to which we’re accustomed to seeing in the United States. It is a large, green, nocturnal parrot, with a short, sloped beak.
These two birds demonstrate the unique and fascinating life that is threatened in the New Zealand hotspot.
New Zealand has several protection agencies: Ornithological Society of
New Zealand, New Zealand National Parks and Conservation Foundation,
The New Zealand Ecological Society, Botanical society of Ontago. With
strong history of conservation legislation, dating back nearly 150
years, New Zealand’s main form of protection agency would have to be
the Department of Conservation. This government agency is
responsible for the protection and sustainable use of biodiversity.
The country’s first National Park was established in 1887, many more
protected areas have been popping up on the island off shore. The
main goal is to establish a predator free area for the threatened
species. To take drastic measures the Department of Conservation has
built a massive wall keeping out rodents and other predatorily