Why it’s a boom year for kākāpō and rodents alike.
On the island sanctuary of Whenua Hou, kākāpō only breed when rimu trees mast. Rimu responds to different temperature cues than beech. “If year two is colder than year one, there’ll be a mast in year four,” says kākāpō scientist Andrew Digby. “We count the developing fruit in the autumn. If more than eight per cent of the branch tips have fruit on them, the kākāpō will breed the following summer.” Last autumn, 47 per cent of the tips had fruit, and it has led to a record-breaking breeding season. It’s rare for rimu fruit, pictured above, to fully ripen on Whenua Hou—that last happened 17 years ago. But today, ripe red fruit carpet the ground, and kākāpō mums are feeding it to their chicks, which are growing faster than usual. Almost every nest has two chicks, or even three: “We’ve never seen that before,” says Digby. “Almost every bird has bred.” It means 2019 is a mega-mega-mast: not only are beech and rimu masting at the same time, a rare event, but masting is unusually widespread.
After the attack on two Christchurch mosques, after the number of dead and injured climbed and climbed, New Zealand came to several hard realisations: This is not a peaceful and equitable country. Many people go about their daily lives steeled to hatred. At the same time, people in Christchurch banded together to help the hundreds left bereaved and traumatised by an act of terrorism.
Seabird scientists are creating a fake home for shags on the Noises, an island group off the coast of Auckland, in the hope that the Hauraki Gulf’s rapidly diminishing spotted shag population will be fooled into thinking it’s a great place to start a family.
Since humans arrived in New Zealand, we’ve lost nearly half of our native terrestrial bird species. Some of those extinct icons are well known, while others are recalled only by myth and bones. We will probably never know the full polyphony of that primordial dawn chorus, but old bones and new science are giving us a richer picture of life in the land of birds, back when they still ruled the roost. For the first time, we’re able to answer questions about what they ate, where they came from, how they were related to each other, and how they got so much bigger, heavier, and weirder than their ancestors.
The idea of minimal living, an international fad, has fallen on fertile soil in New Zealand, thanks to our national housing crisis and shifting ideas about the way we want to live. For some people, a tiny house is the only home they will ever afford to own. Others are stepping off the treadmill of modern life to ask: How much space does a person really need?
Last year’s earthquake is now believed to be one of the most complex ever recorded.
Gene editing is now being used in research around New Zealand, usually to ‘switch off’ genes one by one in order to figure out what they do. Overseas, this technology has started to emerge from the lab—it has the potential to help eradicate pests, save threatened species, even cure diseases—and soon, we’ll have to decide whether gene editing should be permitted more widely in New Zealand. What are the risks? What could we use it for? And how should we decide?
Earth’s early days remain shrouded in mystery, but Kathy Campbell is helping to clarify how life began—and whether there was life on Mars.
When a 400-year-old play was brought to life in Auckland with Pasifika costume, dance, language and actors, audience numbers broke records.
An unlikely crew is given the assignment of catching birds in butterfly nets on a weather-beaten subantarctic island.
Somewhere, maybe, the South Island kōkako is calling in the bush. One avid pursuant reckons he's recorded it.
How language developed is an unsolved puzzle of human evolution, and Michael Corballis has spent a lifetime trying to figure it out.
In the heart of the Waikato there’s a multimillion-dollar industry based on a gnat. Glowworms are big business, attracting well over half a million people a year to Waitomo and prompting some to shift from working the land above ground to commercialising the creatures below it. But keeping the caves and their thousands of tiny performance artists in good health requires round-the-clock care.
Carmelite nuns live in seclusion, rarely venturing from their cloister. Instead, they devote themselves to prayer and contemplation. Eighty years after it was established, a glimpse inside an Auckland monastery reveals simplicity and contentment born of another time.
The Kaikōura Earthquake was better documented and measured than any natural event in our history. As the data streams in, scientists are scrambling to decode its hidden meanings and answer some burning questions of Antipodean geology: How does seismic energy jump from one fault to another? Why were so many involved in this earthquake? And what can it teach us so we are better prepared for the next one?
Submerged for aeons in the peat bogs of New Zealand’s north, swamp kauri is one of the world’s most valuable and exquisite timbers, and an unparalleled resource for global climate science. But as exports boomed and wetlands were ruined in the rush for the logs, the swamps have become an ideological battleground. What is the future of this ancient taonga?
The South Island kōkako is widely believed to have died out a half century ago, but some committed bird experts are convinced there are signs a few remain: disturbed moss, glimpses of grey wings and orange wattles, an occasional haunting call. Yet despite decades scouring southern forests, the kōkako has remained elusive—a single feather is the closest the searchers may have come to proving the bird still exists.
Charlie Douglas's original treasure maps of the West Coast were lost for decades.
One hundred and seventy-five years ago this year, British explorer James Clark Ross led an expedition into the unknown at the bottom of the world. Today, the Ross Sea remains pristine, unknown, unprotected—the focus of scientific study and global significance.
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