Author: Lois Olive Gray Photos: Kay Ellen Gilmour Travel Arrangements: Zegrahm Expeditions
Contents Chapter 1. Introduction ................................................................... 3 Chapter 2. Some Present Day New Zealand Facts ............................... 9 Chapter 3. The Department of Conservation ..................................... 10 Chapter 4. Wellington ................................................................... 16 Chapter 5. Marlborough Sounds Maritime Park ................................ 19 Chapter 6. Ship’s Cove .................................................................... 23 Chapter 7. Kaikoura ......................................................................... 24 Chapter 8. Christchurch .................................................................... 27 Chapter 9. Dunedin ....................................................................... 32 Chapter 10. Campbell Island............................................................ 34 Chapter 11. Enderby Island ............................................................. 42 Chapter 12. Snare's Island ............................................................... 49 Chapter 13. Stewart Island .............................................................. 54 Chapter 14. Ulva Island................................................................... 56 Chapter 15. Dusky Sound ............................................................... 59 Chapter 16. Milford Sound .............................................................. 60 Chapter 17. Conclusions ................................................................ 64
Restoring Paradise December 5 - 21, 2008 Chapter 1. Introduction
The Maori demi-god, Maui, crouched in the hull of his two older brothers’ waka (ocean-going canoe) on a beautiful Pacific Ocean day of calm waters and blue skies punctuated with floating white clouds. He was hidden because they had refused permission for him to join their daily fishing expedition, as they always did. They said he was too young and would bring them bad luck. The big canoe had set off from their home island, Hawaiiki, its actual location lost in the shadows of time and myth. But Maui was confident he would lead them to many more fish than they had ever caught in a single day, because he was convinced that his forefathers had granted him magical powers. For this adventure, he had woven a special fishing line as instructed by his personal protector. When his brothers discovered him they were already far from land. Exasperated, they realized they would not be able to take him back home before beginning again because the daylight would fade from the sky before they could come back with the day’s catch. So all three began fishing accompanied by thegrumbling of the two brothers. Very soon they realized that they were hauling in a huge number of big and healthy fish, much more than usual. They began to tease Maui about his “magic powers” but were pleased at the take. Suddenly, Maui’s line was almost bent double by the weight of his fish. He called to his brothers to help him pull it in and they hurried to assist him. The effort was enormous but they persevered using every remaining bit of strength they possessed. A huge dorsal fin and long backbone broke the ocean’s surface and they marveled that Maui must have snagged a whale! The great contest continued for several hours before the entire “catch” appeared floating before their wondering eyes. They called the prize “Te Ika a Maui” (Maui’s Big Fish), but today it is known as the North Island of New Zealand. Maori legend insists that this is the true origin
of that part of the country. As the three brothers kept on struggling, another large piece of land finally popped above the waves and they called it “Te Waka de Maui” (The Canoe of Maui), today the bigger South Island. Little bits and pieces of land continued to rise during their titanic struggle, the largest of these they called “Te Pung a Maui” (Maui’s Anchor) but today we know it as Stewart Island lying to the south of big South Island. The other little land bits that were pulled along after that “anchor” like a lost rope line, they failed to name. But today, they are called the Subantarctic Islands of New Zealand. Such is the Maori version of the origin of their home islands: Aotearoa, as they call New Zealand in their language. With great fascination, I learned that modern geologists’ have a theory about the origin of this wonderful place that does not conflict fatally with the Maori version. These scientists deal with plate tectonics rupturing huge land masses occurring 200 million years ago and with powerful under-ocean earthquakes causing sea bottoms to rise. Gondwanaland is the name geologists have given to the supercontinent from which India, Africa, Australia and Antarctica were born. Of course, all the smaller land masses in the Southern Hemisphere also were ripped off this giant continent—including New Zealand, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, and much smaller bits. They postulate that New Zealand was torn away from Gondwanaland about 160 million years ago at a time when much of what would become that country was more like continental shelf than a large island. Over the millennia, more of it sank beneath the ocean and became ocean bottom. Because of all the pushing and pulling of the Australian and Pacific tectonic plates and the subsequent earthquakes, synclines (deep trenches), and volcanic eruptions beneath the sea, the many islands forming New Zealand today were forced upwards until they reached sea level and above. Isn’t that rather akin to how Maui hooked the sea bottom and pulled it up above the waves? A further detail in the Maori story concerns the damage that the two elder brothers wreaked on Maui’s “big fish” by trying to hack bits off and gouge deep to obtain the meat. That’s their story to explain the mountains and fjords and plains
that form the islands. Geologists say these features are the creation of the volcanic action caused by the constant pressure of the two tectonic plates, the Australian plate moving southwest and the Pacific plate moving northerly. The fissures and earthquakes cause mountains to continue rising and lakes to form in depressions and the coastline to change continuously over geologic time. Geologists say that the city of Christchurch on the eastern coast of New Zealand’s South island is moving in a different direction from Wellington on the southern tip of the North Island by about 4 millimeters a year! That’s rather quickly in geologic time! The geologists postulate that this strange journey occurs because the North Island rides the Australian plate and half the South Island sits on the Pacific plate. 1000 years ago when the Maoris discovered Aotearoa, they postulated that the island was a gift from the ocean! Modern plate tectonic theory does not disagree. After the great rending off, New Zealand was a “whale rider” apart from the other sections of the supercontinent. Its plant and animal life developed completely separately from the rest. Even its geologic development was unlike the other remaining land chunks. No mammal ever evolved in New Zealand with the exception of three bat species, one of which is already extinct. There are some amphibians and reptiles, but no snakes. There is also a “living fossil” from the dinosaur age, the tuatara—an iguana-like creature. Insects and plants evolved riotously on the islands, but they are distinct from those elsewhere in the world. But where Mother Nature produced the most flamboyant evolutionary pattern is in the avian world. Birds have filled every niche possible so that birds take the places usually occupied by mammals or marsupials in other parts of the globe. Thus there are birds that live like squirrels or others like forage like mice and occupy similar homes. Most amazing is that many of these native birds became flightless because there were no predators to create an advantage to flight. No wonder pre-historic New Zealand is described as a paradise for the creatures who lived there!
For millennia, that paradise continued undisturbed except by the slow mechanisms of evolution, the alterations in weather patterns, the uplifts and
drops in the land caused by volcanic activity and the pushing and shoving of plate tectonics. The plants and animals were subject only to the dictates of Mother Nature. 1000 years ago, this paradise was invaded. Destroyed may be a better term for it. How? Man arrived in the form of the Polynesian wanderers and explorers we now call the Maori. With man came annihilation. In the case of New Zealand, that devastation took the form of extinction of species millions of years in their development. 800 years after the Maoris, the Europeans discovered New Zealand and more ruin was brought to the lovely land and its vulnerable ecosystem. Biologists, ecologists, historians all agree that of all land masses, New Zealand has suffered the greatest number of extinctions due to human pressures. Because no mammalian predators had evolved there, the birdlife was totally unprepared for the exotic (in this context, exotic means “non-native”) animals humans brought with them or for the ravages of hunting that human beings practiced. It is not really necessary to indict humanity for its early depredations because people’s actions were based on ignorance and heedlessness rather than evil or selfishness. After all, both the Maoris and the Europeans had never occupied such an unspoiled Eden before. They were also unaware of the damage that exotic species can wreak on an isolated environment. They did not recognize that the islands supported a limited population of creatures that could be shattered so quickly. By the time extinctions were understood, tremendous damage had already occurred. For a time after the collision between the Maoris and the Europeans, the natural world was not studied or valued. The Europeans were busily “conquering” the new world and subduing the indigenous human populations. The Maoris were desperately defending their homes and way of life. No one noticed when the last moa was killed. In 1840, the Treaty of Waitangi between the British and the Maoris finally ended the open conflict and assured more rights to the Maoris than indigenous peoples usually received at the mercies of the British and other European explorers. Then the European period of destroying New Zealand began in earnest as immigrants arrived in greater numbers every year and the land was “tamed” and altered for agriculture and animal husbandry as the Europeans knew it. Whalers and sealers exploited the marine life until it became unprofitable due
to the declining numbers of the creatures they sought. Cities grew up in the formerly unoccupied lands driving out the native birds and plants. Huge sheep stations arose in the plains and caused enormous change in the environment, destroying more plants and birds. Most destructive however was the importation of non-native mammals and marsupials. The Maoris had brought the “fat pig” with them as a food source. This pig was a rooting animal and created considerable destruction of the ground nesting birds. Worse though were the animals brought by Europeans: cats, dogs, stoats, and possums (from Australia), weasels, rabbits, rats and mice. The assault on paradise was bloody and final for many species who had evolved with no defenses against these deadly predators. In biology this is known as evolutionary naïveté. It is estimated that over 50% of the bird species present at the beginning of the human colonization of New Zealand have become extinct, 2 only to the species loss in the Hawaiian Islands. Evolution in New Zealand produced unique species, endemic to the country (meaning they exist only there). 90% of the freshwater fish, 80% of vascular plants, 70% of terrestrial and freshwater birds, all bats, all amphibians, and all reptiles fit into that category. This degree of endemism makes the loss of species even more catastrophic. The slaughter of the flightless moas, largest of any birds anywhere is a good example of what makes extinction so heartbreaking. The Maoris hunted these birds to extinction, long before any European had ever seen them. As a matter of fact, scientists today believe that the total destruction of the 10 species of moa was accomplished in less than 100 years after the Maoris arrived. Because the Haast’s Eagle, largest eagle in the world, was completely dependent on moas for food, it too went extinct at the same time. Moas were huge birds, the largest stood 12 feet high and weighed in excess of 550 lbs. The eagle could attack at 50 mph which facilitated its hunting of the huge moas. Besides these very large birds, many smaller species were also pushed to extermination by the exotic predators. The national emblem of New Zealand is the strange kiwi bird, a flightless creature whose feathers look more like fur and whose nostrils are at the end of its beak, the sole bird in the world with that distinction. Even this bird had almost disappeared before human beings took notice of the precipice
on which its fate teetered. Some species were lost before policies and actions could protect them.
As if to counterbalance this dismal past, another stage in evolution has come to pass in New Zealand. Human beings have become aware of their responsibility for the natural world and have decided to sacrifice time, treasure, development, and even some rights in order to restore their country to its paradisiacal past, at least as much as it is possible to do so. This is indeed a huge mutation in the human genome—one that appreciates the physical beauty of nature, the interconnectedness of all life on earth, and works to protect the earth rather than exploit it in every way possible. This mutation has helped New Zealand create a public policy that is already allowing recovery in plants and animals, bringing some threatened species back from the brink and supporting others that are still in danger. Today the NZ human being has evolved past most of his fellow humans in this area; he has become the steward of the earth rather than the exploiter, the restorer rather than the plunderer, and the sharer of earth’s blessings with all the life-forms he encounters rather than the selfish total consumer of every good thing. Now there’s an evolutionary change we could wish on all humanity!
Chapter 2. Some Present Day New Zealand Facts This island nation is about the size of Colorado in land area: 103,737 square miles. To draw a more familiar comparison, Florida comprises 58,560 square miles of land territory. Florida’s peninsula is 447 miles long while it is 1000+ miles from the tip of New Zealand’s North Island to the bottom of the South Island. Florida is 361 miles wide at its most expansive while the New Zealand’s broadest area is on the North Island and measures a slimmer 186 miles across. Florida’s human population has swelled to 15,982, 378 in a smaller territory while New Zealanders number 4,173,460. Needless to say, Florida’s native flora and fauna have suffered devastating human pressure just like New Zealand’s, but Homo Sapiens Floridiensis has not yet undergone the evolutionary shift described above as characteristic of New Zealanders. A couple of specific factors about the make-up of New Zealand’s human population are also relevant to this sea change observed in ecological awareness. The median age is 36 so we have a relatively young, but nonetheless mature group of people living there. 70% of the people are of European stock, Maoris make up 8%, but people who describe themselves as mixed between Maori and European are 12% (Asians & Polynesians make up the other 10%) of the population). Perhaps this relative homogeneity is a factor in the development of ecological sensitivity. Maybe the fact that Maoris and other New Zealanders have lived together for 200+ years in peace since the original conquest has helped the two cultures which have so impacted their native land see the biological situation similarly. It is obviously true that the Maori minority is definitely a working part of the nation’s attempts to restore the country to a stable and healthy biota. Another factor that no doubt facilitates the enormous environmental program is New Zealand’s governmental form: a parliamentary democracy in which Maoris have full rights and representation. A change Kay & I noticed immediately on this visit is the much greater visibility of Maoris in the overall culture: supporting that observation is the ubiquity of the Maori language in printed materials, on signage, place and street names, general recognition of the contributions of the Maoris to New Zealand history, Maori symbols as
decorations and logos. It seemed evident to us that the Maoris are much more integrated into the society than in 1987. Further testimony resides in the evident pride that New Zealanders of mixed blood feel about their dual ancestry! And many of them are fostering Maori language and history instruction in the schools for all young New Zealanders. This too is a tribute to the “highly evolved” status of Homo Sapiens New Zealandiensis. Chapter 3. The Department of Conservation Recognized around the world among biologists, conservationists, and ecologists for its advanced techniques and success in managing despoiled habitats and crashing bird populations, New Zealand’s Department of Conservation has indeed worked environmental wonders since its establishment in 1987. However, it must also be recognized that without the support of the nation’s citizenry, this remarkable record could not have been achieved. Indeed, the Kiwis have been strong supporters of policies, procedures, and restrictions that have implemented the restoration of their country’s natural world. Latest polls reported on the Department’s Website reveal that nearly 70% of the population approves of the work the Department is accomplishing! In 1987, responding to the huge losses in unique and endemic bird species, the government passed the Conservation Act which brought over one-third of New Zealand’s land area under the control of the newly constituted Department of Conservation. Previously separate agencies, such as the Forest Service, Wildlife Service, Department of Lands and Survey and National Park Service were subsumed under the new larger umbrella agency. DOC, as it is affectionately and appreciatively called by the Kiwis, thus gained unified control of all the efforts at restoring New Zealand’s erstwhile paradise. The agency ’s challenge as written into the Act was “to manage the nation’s natural and historical assets for the greatest benefit and enjoyment of all New Zealanders, by conserving, advocating, and protecting the natural and historical heritage so that its values are passed on undiminished to future generations.” The leadership and the members of the department have taken that challenge on directly and have
achieved results that are now the benchmarks for other countries and organizations attempting to accomplish similar ameliorations in their natural environments. Scientists and program directors from nations all around the world visit New Zealand to study DOC’s methods and achievements. One other significant official act that has promoted DOC’s work and affected most directly the areas we were privileged to visit on this trip was the granting of the New Zealand Subantarctic Island World Heritage Site designation in 1998 by UNESCO. While this is the most significant global honor a site can receive, it confers no protection, monetary reward, or management for the area. The individual country wherein the site is located has all that responsibility. However, recently the World Heritage Site Convention has taken steps to withdraw the designation in cases where the site is exploited, reduced in size, despoiled or otherwise damaged. Such a step has been taken in Saudi Arabia and on Montserrat Island in the Caribbean among others. Of course the threat of embarrassment inherent in such a “punishment” is meant to encourage protection. Needless to say, New Zealand so zealously protects its environmental treasures that it is not under any threat of losing World Heritage Status. These Subantarctic Islands are so well protected that DOC allows only 600 tourist visits a year on each one of them. Tour companies must purchase these “tickets to visit paradise” from DOC, thus creating a source of income for the Department. Furthermore, even with the permission granted, visitors must be accompanied by a representative from DOC to insure that rules and regulations are followed. The rules cover such things as staying on designated trails, keeping appropriate distances from all creatures on the islands, disinfecting boots before stepping onto the island and when returning to the ship, carrying nothing onto the island such as food or drink or even backpacks. We were even instructed to check our clothing before returning to the ship to insure that we did not bring any “hangers on” back with us—like seeds or leaves or insects. They were very thorough indeed. Our DOC representative was a delightful lady but she never relaxed the rules for us, nor did we ask her to make any concessions. Before we ever left the ship the first time by zodiac, we were given an informational brochure covering DOC’s “minimum impact code” for the
Subantarctic Islands. There were general rules covering such information as the fact that there are no toilet facilities on any of these islands, that you cannot collect any specimens of any kind, and that you cannot leave anything behind when you leave. Then there were the regulations covering animal viewing: all animals have the right of way, no approaches to animals closer than 5 meters, no following a retreating animal, staying quiet, and crouching when animals are near. We were then reminded that we had two really big personal responsibilities as privileged visitors: following all DOC rules and obeying our DOC representative. Such precautions are logical and necessary given that the primary emphasis in DOC’s restoration program lies in the program for eradicating all exotic (alien) species from reserve areas. Some islands are so different from their neighbors that the same plants and animals may not have been endemic to them. Therefore, since the major thrust of the program is restoration, the scientists do not want species which were not originally on a particular island to get there again even if the species is native to New Zealand itself and could thrive on that little piece of land. For instance, one island we visited hosted no tree ferns despite the fact that tree ferns are native to New Zealand in many other places. Care is taken that none take root there today. Most of the preserves we visited were on islands, but some are being created on the main two islands as well as Stewart Island. These are “islands” within islands in the present environment. Hectares are purchased either privately or by DOC in order to create a city reserve in order to bring native songbirds and kiwis back into the municipal areas. Usually these reserves are also cleared of non-native plants as well so that the birds and insects can live in pristine conditions. It can be easily imagined how expensive and difficult these efforts at restoring paradise can be. With introduced species all around including mammalian predators, it is very hard to keep the preserves rat and cat free; but it is even more tricky to keep the introduced Australian brushtail possum from penetrating the boundaries of the reserves. Unlike our Virginia opossums that are reputed to be pretty stupid, these Aussie emigres are the intellectual equal of dogs. Thus they are the most difficult of the exotics to control and/or exterminate.
A little more information on the Aussie brushtails will make it clear why they are impossible to eradicate completely. They are nocturnal and arboreal and therefore very difficult to find. They sleep in tree cavities thus depriving native birds of their usual nesting places. Though they are herbivores in Australia, they have developed a taste for meat in New Zealand so nest robbing for eggs and chicks is now a normal behavior for them. But even if they were not predating birds, they would still be quite destructive as herbivores because the native New Zealand plants did not evolve strategies to avoid or survive mammalian “diners.” Birds, reptiles, and insects in New Zealand often do feed on native plants, but these plants are adapted to the methods of consumption practiced by native creatures. As if devastation of the natural environment were not enough to indict these transplants, they are also vectors of bovine tuberculosis. So not only do conservationists and ecologists rue the presence of these unwelcome immigrants, the dairy farmers are also very sorry they were ever brought over to New Zealand from their own native home. Actually, DOC has many exotics to deal with, thanks to the wholesale importing of mammals that the European settlers accomplished in very short order. A list of animals DOC is currently dealing with include the following: Argentine ants, deer, feral goats, various fish species, feral horses, wallabies, possums, rainbow lorikeets, rats, stoats, ferrets and weasels, tahr and wasps! Of course, the list of exotics is incomplete because we have not even mentioned all the non-native plant types which are out-competing New Zealand’s own species. Needless to add, DOC has a huge and never-endingmission. The major weapon DOC workers employ to try to control the brushtail numbers is a natural plant toxin called 1080; actually it is sodium monofluoroacetate. It has the advantage of being water soluble and biodegradable. But its use is not without controversy since native birds, fish, insects and reptiles do succumb when they ingest it. Many studies have been conducted to make the poison less attractive to any of the native creatures. At present the poison is embedded in a cereal host which has proven to be alluring to the brushtails but relatively uninteresting to birds and other native species. There is a “by-catch” aspect to the strategy, but it is small enough that the scientists believe that this poison is their most effective
culling agent. 1080 has the added value of being very effective with the 4 species of rats that have established themselves on the two main islands. The Subantarctic islands have been rendered rat-free due to the use of 1080 as have some other of the islands belonging to New Zealand and now functioning as preserves. The poison is dropped from the air and then the kills are monitored by DOC workers on the ground—both the intended and unintended deaths are counted and recorded so that improvements in delivery systems can be researched. Just for fun, it is good to mention a couple of very ironic discoveries we made. In 1870 the then Governor of New Zealand imported 4 species of wallabies from Australia to create a zoo on a small islet off the North Island. The zoo never had any cages because it was believed that the wallabies would never swim across open water and that supposition did turn out to be true. However, the wallabies found the little island very much to their liking and found everything they needed for survival and reproduction. Soon they had eaten all the native species of plants (they are herbivores) and it became necessary to feed them and keep their numbers down to something manageable. These creatures are living well on the largess of the New Zealanders who support the island zoo. The irony is that two of those species are nearly extinct in Australia and DOC is cooperating with Australian biologists in a breeding and relocation program to return the endangered wallabies to their own homeland! In a park on the North Island are herds of feral horses which are also very destructive of native habitats, especially the native plants. The herds are controlled and kept in a reserve area, but every time the DOC must cull the numbers, a great protest goes up from the New Zealand humans who do not wish to see these horses destroyed. Sounds like home with our wild mustangs and burros, doesn’t it? So, just as our Department of the Interior has attempted, DOC periodically offers the excess horses for adoption. And just as it is here at home, never are enough of the animals adopted to keep the herds at the optimum levels. Incidentally, these feral horses are really domestic horses who were allowed to run free in years past—again, just like our mustangs
Another amazingly ironic disconnect: while New Zealand is being overrun with brushtail possums, there is still an odd import business which thrives fairly well—frozen brushtail possum meat is imported into NZ from Australia for human consumption! Why don’t New Zealanders who like this meat hunt the creatures in their own country where they are such an enormous pest? Seems like some enterprising hunter types could create a little business of their own selling the creatures to their fellow countrymen. What a great way to support the activities of DOC, right?
Next, we will move on to a discussion of the various sites where DOC has been active and achieved such splendid success. These success stories greatly contribute
to the support that DOC consistently wins from the New Zealand humans. Even the rarely visited Subantarctic Islands achievement stories are communicated regularly to the populace so that folks can understand the great strides being made in those remote places as well.
Now let’s see how this wonderful agency works in the places we visited on this fascinating Zegrahm trip to wonderful New Zealand!
Chapter 4. Wellington Wellington is the capital of New Zealand and it sits at the southern end of the North Island. It is a pretty city, arranged around a beautiful and calm harbor. In that it reminds one of Sydney, except that it is not so large nor the architecture so grand. It also calls for comparisons with San Francisco, built as it is on hills stepping down to the sea. But again, Wellington has much more modest demeanor, though it does have its wonderful Beehive Building for Parliament to sit in and the new and modern Ta Papa National Cultural Museum!
However, it was not those sights that impressed us, or indeed that had brought us here to begin our expedition to pristine New Zealand.
The most seminal aspect of our visit to Wellington was the opportunity of touring Karori Wildlife Sanctuary -- an island of restoration within the city limits. The most amazing fact about Karori is its creation through the efforts of private citizens.
After having been used as farmland, gold and quartz mining venues, and a reservoir created by the construction of two different dams, the Sanctuary Valley as the site has been called for 100+ years was determined to be a perfect setting for a cityside wildlife preserve. A group of citizens petitioned the local government and the national government for the rights to purchase the 1 square mile of property and won acceptance from both. A survey of Wellington’s local citizenry in 1990 revealed 90% support for the preserve. The Trust formed to purchase the land raised the necessary money and the land was transferred to the Trust in 1995. The Trust opened to visitors during that year so that people could visit and understand what was being proposed. There is an ambitious 500-year vision that guides the Sanctuary’s development and management—that vision started in 1995 and states that it will require 500 years of regrowth to bring the land back to its condition prior to the arrival of Europeans. Of course the new life envisioned for the area requires that all non-native plants and creatures be removed permanently from the area. Original species of birds, animals and plants which have been lost to the area after 700 years of human intrusion must be reintroduced and nurtured to self- sustaining populations. The first and most expensive endeavor, after the land acquisition, was the building of the predator proof fence around the entire valley a 5.5-mile long structure completed in l998. At that time, the Trust scientists declared the area predator-free except for mice. Much research was required in the design of the fence. It had to be able to repel cats, dogs, ferrets, possums, rats, and all other mammalian predators completely! This meant scientists and observers needed to determine how high a cat could climb, how deep a dog or ferret could dig, how small a space a rat could enter. All this work was done and the fence designed appropriately. Since the original fence construction even mice have been eradicated. Now the fence must be regularly maintained to insure that it is intact. Ongoing monitoring must be conducted to detect any penetration of the fence by any of the said predators. Constant vigilance is the price of successful restoration!
In addition to creating a predator-free environment, the Trust was committed to the reintroduction of native birds, plants and the famous “living fossil” from the Age of Dinosaurs, the tuatara. Several bird species missing from the Wellington environs for many years have been successfully returned to this habitat: the stitchbird, the saddleback, the bellbird, and the tui, among others. Native trees and shrubs have been planted while young stands of native hardwoods are encouraged through eradication of competing non-native species. One of the signs of the early achievements of this valuable Sanctuary is the success of many of the returned bird species. Not only are these birds easily seen and counted within the reserve, many have begun flying into the Wellington neighborhoods to visit bird feeders and back lawns, delighting the city dwellers who have so strongly supported this effort. Research has confirmed that the numbers of these birds are rising as they are no longer predated by creatures for which evolution provided no defense. The living fossil, the iguana-like reptile, the tuatara, has also been reintroduced to Sanctuary Valley and is also thriving here. The creature has been present on New Zealand since the Age of the Dinosaurs but human destruction of its habitat, hunting, predation by mammals with loss of eggs and young had long ago put the creature on the endangered animal list. Its success here is somewhat qualified if the definition of true return to a former lifestyle means a freedom of movement such as the birds enjoy, for the tuatara lives in the protected area and is not allowed to leave the confines of the fence. However, as the numbers of surviving tuataras increases, the reptile is being relocated to other predator free islands and sanctuaries. We enjoyed this look at what conservation can achieve and were pleased to see so many of the endangered birds and the wonderful tuatara. New Zealand’s birds are often colorful and always interesting in their behaviors. Their songs are frequently melodious and strange. We also were astounded at our first look at the tree weta, an enormous flightless New Zealand insect that can measure up to 4 inches and weigh almost an ounce. They look rather
like a cross between a beetle and a katydid. Karori Wildlife Sanctuary provided us with our first look at an “island” of restoration, conservation and protection—although it is a city sanctuary. What a wonderful introduction to a New Zealand whose conservation vision works on a 500-year optimistic plan! It is important to report that the private sanctuary also operates under the auspices, with the support, and in compliance with DOC. Chapter 5. Marlborough Sounds Maritime Park Part of the waters dividing the North and South Islands, the Marlborough Sounds are drowned valley systems resulting from subsidence in the earth’s crust probably in conjunction with earthquakes and other plate tectonic movements. The coast is deeply indented by long sea corridors so frequently that this area accounts for 15% of total New Zealand coastline. Interspersed between the open water and the mainland are many small islands that have become the last bastions for so many of the beleaguered NZ bird species. These bits of land and some of the more pristine of the mainland native forest stands are managed and monitored by DOC. Many of the birds were surviving only in such small areas after having gone extinct on the mainland. Now these preserves are the nursery for these birds who nest here but whose offspring are often moved to other safe places once DOC as rendered them predator-free. Some of the islands can be visited under strict guidelines; others are restricted and only DOC scientists and workers may visit them. Some of the mainland forests are handled the same way. Jacob’s Bay We were privileged to visit three sites in this Park. We took a long and very wet walk just above the coast at Jacob’s Bay. This area is not pristine nor is it predator-free. However, DOC is working in the area to protect the native trees and plants with the hope that birds and insects will return as their native habitat regenerates. Efforts are also being directed towards controlling the predators. The brushtail possum is the most destructive pest here. There is no real promise of a completely pest-free environment in this place since the
area is much too expansive to use fencing such as that employed in Karori. So the focus here is the plants, but even some of them can be harmed or killed by exotic insects and mammals. The walk was quite lovely as we wandered through the green-tinted air awed by the enormity of huge trees and the beauty of the tree ferns. The softly falling rain added to the magic of this “lost in the mists of time” setting and we were not even surprised at first by the absence of birdsong. Very few birds live at Jacob’s bay right now and of course even the few that are usually there were quiet on such a damp day. The most interesting plant we saw, though not the most beautiful, is the incredible lancewood tree. We were to see it in other settings we visited too but this was the most impressive since it was our first experience of it. When it is a sapling, it is very slender and its leaves look like very wide needles pointing downward off the stems. They can reach 3 ft. in length, are deeply serrated on the edges, and speckled. As the young sapling searches for light it continues to grow taller but it continues in its spindly appearance. When a place opens in the canopy where the tree can reach upward, perhaps caused by another tree’s fall, the lancewood shoots up amazingly rapidly until it can join the treetops of all the other taller ones that have surrounded it. The trunk thickens out remarkably and the leaves transform themselves completely. They are now
more oblong than linear and are only about 9 inches long and are much wider than the juvenile form. The tree can reach 40 ft. in height and the trunk is usually about 1 foot in diameter. This condition of having two or more distinct kinds of leaves in juvenile and adult forms is called “heteroblasty” and it is not at all uncommon in New Zealand plants. But the lancewood was our only encounter with the phenomenon.
Now that our raingear had been thoroughly tested, the sun came out and we were able to visit one of DOC’s predator-free islands—Motuara Island in this same area. It was quite different from Jacob’s Bay. There were no tree ferns on this speck of land but many birds—the air was constantly vibrating to their calls. The forest was much more open than the one at Jacob’s Bay which was thick with underbrush as well as a lofty and dense canopy. The island is very hilly and the trail up was slippery with mud because of the rain that had fallen earlier. But the slipping and sliding were well worth the effort because of the wonderful birds were saw so closely and clearly.
The most enchanting is the South Island Robin. He is a tiny round fellow who stands very tall on long sticklike legs. He is a slate grey color with a creamy breast cover, unless we are looking at his mate who wears a lighter grey costume with a smaller
light patch on her breast. Both sexes are amazingly tame and curious. Their typical foraging method is picking and kicking among the leaf litter on the forest floor. Evolutionary biologists believe that they evolved to follow much larger birds like the moas, catching the insects and invertebrates stirred up by the big-footed birds. That behavior may explain their fearless behavior around us giant two legs. They almost swirled between our legs and we had to be watchful to avoid stepping on them. The island also revealed the colorful and beautiful-voiced bellbirds—hitherto we had only heard their bell-like song but had not actually seen their colors— olive greens, yellow, and some red. We saw baby fairy penguin chicks (now called blue penguins) nestled in boxes provided by DOC personnel. There were brown creepers who behave rather like sapsuckers here and the colorful New Zealand parakeets, olive green with red decorations on their heads. After our rainy day in the Sounds, we were so delighted with the bright blue skies over our heads on Motuara Island! The weather was cool and dry, except for the mud under our boots. We had to keep reminding ourselves that we were the only 18 people on the island at a time and that we were being allowed to be here for an hour and a half’s concert of bird song and art show of beautifully feathered and patterned birds. This island paradise must be a real gem among DOC’s many fine “jewelry” items.
Waimaru Gannet Colony & Duffer’s Reef Exploring another part of this Maritime Park, we went by Zodiac to a wonderful natural reserve that has not required the intervention of concerned human beings yet though it is under DOC administration. This was the Australasian gannet colony that occupies steep and craggy small islands in this Bay. The granite rocks rise sheerly from the dark indigo waters and almost pierce the clouds riding high in the blue sky. The birds are about the size of gulls and very busy all the time—fishing, drying their wings after dives, nudging and elbowing others for space on the precious ledges, feeding their fuzzy gray chicks in their precariously placed nests. Other species of birds also struggle for purchase among the gannets— oystercatchers, King Shags, Pied Shags, and silver gulls. The scene was beautiful and rugged and a spectacular sunset just added to the beauty as we watched the birds begin to flock in for the night, dark patterns against the sky’s brilliant tropical colors. As we zoomed about in Zodiacs under the amazing sunset, we also passed the roosting place of the rare and endemic King Shag. Chapter 6. Ship’s Cove This site connected with Captain James Cook’s expeditions to New Zealand is an example of DOC’s administration of NZ cultural and historical heritage. Ship’s Cove is a sheltered bay where Captain Cook found everything he needed to refurbish his men and his ship and its stores. The site included excellent sources of fresh water, lots of sturdy trees for timber, plentiful greens to prevent scurvy among the sailors, good anchorage for his ships and comfortable terrain for the men to pitch tents and rest from the rolling sea and constant motion of the good ship Endeavor. He visited and revisited this area from 1770 to 1773 and spent a total of 168 days there. For good or ill, Captain Cook is a seminal figure in NZ history because he was the first European to have close contacts with the Maori, some friendly and some not. But after Capt. Cook came the European invasion and then the country was never the same. We hikers approached the site from the other side of the land spit and walked through a lovely forest over some medium hills to reach Ship’s Cove
from the land side rather than seaside as the good captain did. We enjoyed the well-maintained trail and admired the lovely views towards the cove from the heights we reached. Our hike took about 2 hours to complete. There is a wonderful DOC pier that reaches far out into the Cove and that’s where the Zodiacs unloaded the passengers who did not wish to hike with us that morning. There is a monument honoring Capt. Cook that had been placed in 1913. There is a small green lawn area running down to the sea and we saw several wekas foraging like chickens in the grass and among the pebbles closer to the water. DOC also maintains a trail that takes about 45 minutes roundtrip up to the double waterfall that is the source of the water Capt. Cook was so pleased to find. The falls and their setting are really quite beautiful. Ship’s Cove is maintained now by DOC and it is doing an excellent job considering this is a very much visited site. Chapter 7. Kaikoura In truth, this small former whaling station town should not be covered in this journal because of the antithetical standards of ecotravel here. Because the Maoris have had the concession to operate tourist facilities here for many years, many of the regulations promulgated by DOC do not obtain here. In particular, the ban against chumming to attract birds is totally ignored. Nonetheless, the Maoris have shown great interest in preserving the wonderful landscape and wildlife here.
The town is backed against a snow-covered range of low mountains that provide drama to the scene. Beneath the water is an even more astounding wilderness, the Abyssal Plain that begins dropping away just feet from the harbor. The Plain drops even further into the Hikurangi Trench and thence into the Kermadec Trench, at least 1000 ft. below the sea surface. There, the Pacific and Australian plates collide and create volcanic eruptions and mudslides and enormous surges in the sea bottom. Because the sea is warm in the deep area and it mixes with the colder waters higher in the column, there is a constant upwelling of plankton and deep sea creatures such as squid and tiny invertebrates that create great banquets for the whales and other sea mammals. Even the professional birders among our naturalists enjoyed the wonderful experience of seeing several species of albatross, giant petrels, and other birds so close behind our birdwatching boat. These birds were so close that it was difficult to use binoculars to focus on them. The Captain’s mate threw out a frozen bait mixture of ground fish parts inside a netball. It didn’t have to float long on the water ’s surface before huge albatross began closing in on their long, elegant wings: we had Northern and Southern Royal Albatross, Shy Albatross, Salvin’s Albatross, Gray-headed Albatross, Wandering Albatross, with both Pintado and Giant petrels in the melee around the bait ball. It was t
incredible to be so close to these enormous birds and see their interactions when quarrelling among themselves and with others species over the food. Albatross can be aggressive and they have loud braying calls as well as sharp staccato bill clicking when agitated. So we had it all—visual and audio looks at these magnificent birds. It was a banquet for the camera-bearers for sure. We were also lucky enough see Dusky Dolphins and the smallest of all Dolphins, the Hector’s, unique to New Zealand, and the lovely and exceedingly rare blue shark. Because commercial whaling ended here in the mid-20 century, the whales have made a comeback and return to this area of great upwellings all during the year. The folks who chose to go whale watching were rewarded with good views of three sperm whales during their boating adventure along with many of the birds and mammals we on the bird boat saw. Though somewhat contrived, our wildlife experience in Kaikoura was splendid and exhilarating. While hiking along the headland of the Kaikoura Peninsula, we saw many birds, native and non, as well as red-billed gulls, and a fur seal haul out. The headland was quite beautiful with wonderful sea views, waving (non- native) grasses, with blue cloud tossed skies overhead. But the wonderful thing we learned about here was another DOC program to rescue the Hutton ’s Shearwater, a native seabird whose numbers are declining rapidly, probably through loss or degradation of their usual habitat for breeding. The only place in New Zealand where these birds breed and nest is in the alpine valleys above Kaikoura. The researchers with DOC decided about three years ago that this area was no longer hospitable to the birds and made plans to relocate their breeding grounds. Because the birds always return to the same place, the ornithologists decided it would be fairly simple to accomplish this purpose. After the adult birds have finished their feeding of the chicks, they abandon them in their nest burrows. It takes about a week or two for the chicks to realize mom t
and dad are not coming back to feed them. They will then emerge from the burrows and begin life on their own. The DOC researchers use this time frame between parental desertion and fledging to visit the nest burrows at night and remove the chicks. Each is placed in a darkened box and taken down on the low hillsides above where we were walking on the Peninsula. There each individual is placed in an already prepared nest box. Next, when hunger forces a chick out of the comfy nestbox in the dark of night, he or she will imprint on the star patterns and the skies above his new home. The researchers believe that when it is time for these chicks to return as adults in 5-6 years for breeding, they will come to this hillside since it will be “home” to them. So far the program is working well, but it cannot be called a total success quite yet since none of the relocated chicks has become old enough to breed. It will be another 2-3 years before the first of the “changelings” returns to Kaikoura. This is just another of the interesting and innovative projects that DOC has initiated for the restoration, preservation, and conservation of New Zealand’s native species. No wonder the conservation world comes to New Zealand! Chapter 8. Christchurch In lovely, hyperEnglish Christchurch, we were to experience two different kinds of wildlife conservation. This beautiful coastal city calls itself “more English than England” and it certainly does strive to earn that appellation. With its River Avon and the beautiful Anglican Cathedral in the center of town, its English architectural styles, and its English manners and customs, Christchurch is a wonderfully comfortable city to visit. Its other claim to importance is the existence of its peculiar “cottage industry”: the staging arena for Antarctic Explorations from the 19 century right up to today. The Antarctic Museum contains many artifacts from the Scott and other expeditions, including diaries and journals, clothing, foodstuffs in tins, sledges, lanterns, and other necessary equipment.Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 Page 5 Page 6 Page 7 Page 8 Page 9 Page 10 Page 11 Page 12 Page 13 Page 14 Page 15 Page 16 Page 17 Page 18 Page 19 Page 20 Page 21 Page 22 Page 23 Page 24 Page 25 Page 26 Page 27 Page 28 Page 29 Page 30 Page 31 Page 32 Page 33 Page 34 Page 35 Page 36 Page 37 Page 38 Page 39 Page 40 Page 41 Page 42 Page 43 Page 44 Page 45 Page 46 Page 47 Page 48 Page 49 Page 50 Page 51 Page 52 Page 53 Page 54 Page 55 Page 56 Page 57 Page 58 Page 59 Page 60 Page 61 Page 62 Page 63 Page 64 Page 65
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