New Zealand's Sub-Antarctic Islands - 2008

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

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