For millions of years New Zealand was a paradise - a lush green land that was home to many ancient plants and animals. But a thousand years ago the first invaders arrived, and the face of the country was changed forever. As wave after wave of invaders swept through the country the innocent natives came increasingly under siege. Today, battles against the invaders are being fought on all fronts, in a desperate attempt to save what is left of paradise.
Promiscuous, incestuous and homosexual, our native swamp hen is a rather remarkable bird.
At Western Springs Wetlands, deep in Auckland’s western suburbs, two families of pukeko carry on their very communal lifestyle in an entirely natural way – despite pressures from other birds, and hand-outs of stale bread and buns.
Snapper congregate in the shallows of Cape Rodney-Okakari Point Marine Reserve at an abundance and maturity that may closely reflect the original snapper populations of the Hauraki Gulf. There are three to four times the number of snapper inside the reserve as outside and up to ten times the number of crayfish.
Perched way out in the Pacific, Rangatira Island is pockmarked with thousands, maybe millions, of seabird burrows. Its forest remnants and rocky platforms also shelter some unique and critically endangered birds. But even endangered birds can make a tasty snack and, on a crowded island, there might not be enough room for everyone to rear their chicks.
The Toroa or Royal Albatross is the world’s largest flying bird - and an endangered species native to New Zealand. When one of the majestic birds washed up on the East Coast in obvious distress last year, the family that discovered it took it to the vet, but the three-year-old bird died a few days later. It had swallowed a 500ml plastic drink bottle, which it probably mistook for a squid. Nine out of ten seabirds have eaten plastic and eight million metric tonnes of plastic make it into the ocean every year. So is there anything that can be done to stop the problem?