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.

http://www.biodiversityhotspots.org/xp/hotspots/new_zealand/Pages/default.aspx

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
animals.

http://www.biodiversityhotspots.org/xp/hotspots/new_zealand/Pages/conservation.aspx
http://www.doc.govt.nz/

 

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5 responses »

  1. Amanda Koh says:

    That was an great post about flightless birds. Nice touch with the video! haha

  2. This is another great post on the kiwis, among other topics. I have been fascinated by fauna and flora of New Zealand and Australia for a long time. I think it is amazing how these countries are different from the rest of the world. I found one that the first Europeans reached the islands of New Zealand in 1642, but because of the hostile local communities of Maoris, they have not got to known well the distant lands. It was James Cook in 1769, who rediscovered the islands (both Australia and New Zealand) for the rest of the world.

    I believe that this historical background is essential to fully understand how different, on many levels, the islands are. There in a gap on the cultural, historical and social ground. But most importantly for the topic of biodiversity, it is so uniquely endemic in its fauna and flora! The animals described in the post: kiwis, kakapo and other endemic birds are just few of the examples. There are more, such as moa bird, Haast’s eagle, many reptiles and species of bats. They are all in danger because of the human migration to the islands and introduction of invasive species. Such animals as rats, ferrets and other mammals are relatively ‘harmless’ in the European and American environment, but put endemic species from New Zealand in a great danger.

    – Kasia (Katarzyna) Dybek

  3. The video of the kakapo was hilarious, but it was his fault for wearing a green shirt. New Zealand is a beautiful place and I’ve always wanted to visit. If I ever do, hopefully the kakapo and kiwi are still around, they’re both so cute!

  4. Dave Swanson says:

    The kiwi is such a fascinating creature in my eyes, It’s one of those species which we one day may never get to be fascinated with again. when you think about all the species that once were and what would happen if they lived today, how different and fascinating a world we would live in. thousands of species in existence once again would make for a great Earth.

  5. First off, that video is great. A unique bird and a quirky one too. New Zealand is a beautiful place. I hope to visit someday and see a lot of the species mentioned for myself. The area is unlike any other in the world. Once again I find myself reading about how invasive species have pushed out native species. I’m getting sad hearing this all over the board. I wish we knew how to leave certain things alone. Nature’s been doing it by herself for millions of years- can’t we take a hint?
    -Ailish Reilly

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