About 85 million yearsago New Zealand separated from the mainland. No mammals, except for some bats, managed to reach and colonise the island, where all the ecological niches had already been colonised by birds.
Year 1000 A.D. more or less:
The Maoris come from Polinesia, bringing with them dogs, pigs and mices. This was the first blow to the fragile ecosystem of New Zealand. Maoris with clubs, slingshots and some rodents were enough to wipe out many local species, such as the Moa, a sort of giant ostrich, and as a consequence also the giant eagle of New Zealand, maybe the biggest that ever existed, that used to feed on the Moas.
Year 1650 A.D. more or less:
the Europeans arrive and that was the final blow.
- We imported other rodents, cats, predators that feasted on the local birds and their eggs
- We burnt the forests to make grassland.
- We imported stronger species than the local ones (sheep, goats, cattle) that accelerated the local species’ decline bringing them to extinction.
- We confined the Maoris, bringing them to a decline from which only now they are recovering
In New Zealand they are desperately trying to make it up for the disasters perpetrated by our ancestors. I list here a few initiatives :
- Creation of programmes for the conservation of the Maori culture; the Maori language has been declared official national language together with English
- Creation of countless protected areas
- Creation of areas declared "pest free", were rodents and predators are absent, to try to help flourish the local species
- Creation of programmes to eradicate invasive species (from wasps to the opossums, they try as much as possible to eliminate invasive species)
- Absolute prohibition of introducing potentially invasive species (you cannot even bring an apple in New Zealand, unless you declare it)
In this short historical notes you can find some of the reasons why, in my opinion, New Zealand is worth visiting: natural reserves, Maori culture, endemic species, but also: geothermal areas, volcanoes, lakes, rivers, majestic landscapes , aware of the fact that this is only a vague memory of what this land would have been before the arrival of the humans.