|South Island Robin|
New Zealand's natural environment is unique. Once part of the southern super continent of 'Gondwana', it had been isolated for about 80 million years until the first humans arrived a mere 700 to 800 years ago.
That event made New Zealand the last major land area on earth to receive the brunt of human contact.
What the early Polynesians found was a natural environment that had evolved in total isolation. "New Zealand is the closest we can come to studying evolution on another planet". (Jared Diamond, American biologist).
|New Zealand's Kiwi|
There was a remarkable array of flightless birds, including the giant Moa (now extinct). The bird life had evolved free of predation except for a few birds of prey.
The effect of introduced animals on New Zealand's bird life was devastating, but in places such as the Kahurangi many species still remain and, like the plant life, most are endemic.
The only land mammals in New Zealand originally were 3 species of bats, therefore the birds and invertebrates took over many niches.
Our giant, carnivorous snails, the Powelliphant are now threatened due to the introduction of mice, rats, mustelids and possums - these snails provide several grams of protein. They eat earthworms and have a very beautiful shell.
If you look carefully in the trees you may find the tree weta - another beautiful native insect.
Introduced species such as deer and possum may be seen and on the coast native fur seals may be found sunning themselves.
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