This week I set out to learn about the rare and extinct creatures of New Zealand from the Te papa museum and Zealandia nature reserve in Wellington.
When the maori arrived on these islands the came across gigantic flightless birds, the Moa, towering above them. They were predated on by humongous eagles with 3m wingspan and then by the new humans who hunted them to extinction. The forest still remembers them though, like the lance tree which has tough leaves when it’s a young sapling and then changes to luscious foliage at a height the moa could no longer reach. The eagles also disappeared. What a sight that would have been! The Te Papa museum hold a lifesize model of these two birds.
The number of extinct birds is long and depressing. Some were hunted for food, but humans or introduced predators. Others like the Huia were collected for feathers. Zealandia show a fantastic film on the natural history of New Zealand including the disappearance of these species and had a clip of someone shooting the Hihi from the sky to draw. It made me feel a bit strange. Sick in fact, that someone would want to document these amazing things whilst also destroying them.
Walking around Zealandia was a lot more positive than the museum. Situated just above the city, this water reservoir has been predator proofed and the local birds are doing well. Walking the paths you see why the birds have suffered. The robins would come eye to eye for a closer look. The noisey kaka parrots wooshed over our heads and the takahe were adorably pecking about our feet.
The songs from the tui were incredible, like a choir of R2d2 droids. I was told the maori would teach these birds hakas and place them around their camps to ward off unwanted visitors. Walking the natural New Zealand bush with all sorts of whirrs and whistles from the birds makes it a truly magical place.
Look! Something that isn’t a bird! This is a Tuatura, and they are NOT lizards. Calling them lizards make them cranky. These guys came about BEFORE lizards and are more realted to crocodiles. Just look at the tail! A tiny foot long croc. I saw this guy at the breeding program at Picton Aquarium. I loved their beady, almond-shaped eyes.
It was a wonderful day drawing all the crazy friendly birds in Zealandia but I must have got carried away with the moment as somewhere in Wellington is my little rough sketchbook that I had been drawing all my preliminary sketches. I spent a day searching but it never turned up. It’s hard losing something that I have poured so much of my heart into, I’m thankful I photographed so many pages. As so many good friends and random street magicians said, I can always do more, and I will make sure I do.