Ghosts of Gondwana

Join us as we explore what has been described as “the nearest thing to life on another planet” — the night forest of New Zealand, where evolution has been turned on its head.

Produced by NHNZ

Science and myth are both in agreement over New Zealand’s old-growth forests – they seem enchanted. Something magical happened to the plants and animals here in the past, transforming both the shape and behaviour, of life-forms as diverse as bats, birds, insects, and even certain plants.

The original people of New Zealand believe in a magic power. Maori tell stories of the strange things that happened to night creatures, long before people arrived here. They said certain creatures of the forest were possessed and deformed, by spirits from the underworld.

What is perhaps difficult to believe is that these stories persist to the present day. Maori still believe these creatures haunt the mysterious old-growth forests of New Zealand today – and the scientists agree with them.

Come with us while there is still time, on a journey to a place that a US biologist has called “the nearest thing to life on another planet”

Packed with revelation, innovative camera techniques, and unusual animal behaviour, Ghosts of Gondwana, allows us to enter unseen, the extraordinary night-time world of New Zealand’s ancient forests — our remnants of Gondwana. We meet a little bat that walks, and all its neighbours: a diving grasshopper, a fly that looks more like a spider, a wingless night-bird, and a mysterious plant – whose intoxicating perfume has perhaps lured an enemy to all of them into the forest.

The ancient and elusive creatures living here interact, in a strange and secretive community that disappeared from the rest of the world many millions of years ago. Bats run upside down along the underside of branches and burrow in the leaf litter, disappearing, as if by magic. The kiwi, NZ’s mammal-like bird with nostrils at the end of its beak wades across streams in search of a grasshopper that dives underwater to hide. A giant fruit fly hitches flights through the forest on the burrowing bat’s back to compensate for its own lack of wings, and then there is the flower of Hades, its drug-like perfume both a blessing and a curse.

Here, hidden from our familiar, modern world, of city lights and cosy suburbs, is an entire secretive community that really does seem to come straight from the underworld.

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