New Zealand’s animal kingdom needs your help!
Updated: Jun 3
Hundreds of years ago, even before your grandparents were born, humans migrated to New Zealand to find a new land to settle in. Unknowingly, they also brought with them animals that did not belong in the NZ environment. Slowly, the new, introduced animals began to take over and threaten NZ’s native animals (and plants).
New Zealand has a unique biodiversity; this is due to it being isolated from the rest of the world, for millions of years. The animal life in NZ flourished by itself before introduced pests came to roam the land too.
The ecosystem was balanced, there was enough food for everyone and each living thing, be it plant or animal, had an important role to play. When the pests became part of the NZ environment, they interfered with this balance. They hunted the native animals and damaged the native plant life. As they didn’t come from NZ, they didn’t have a purpose in the ecosystem.
Park Rangers play a very important role in NZ; they enforce the protection of NZ’s native plants and animals in parks. Their work involves eradicating pests to help restore balance to NZ’s ecosystem. Will you help them?
First, you’ll need to know what’s a pest and what’s native to NZ…
1 - Stoats are “public enemy number one” for NZ birds. They prey on birds that nest in holes in tree trunks and eat their eggs and chicks. They also take over the homes of other animals to have as their dens.
2 - Possums are on of the greatest threats to NZ’s environment. Possums compete with NZ’s native birds and reptiles for food as well as eating weta and the eggs and chicks of native birds.
3 - Hedgehogs feast on the eggs and chicks of riverbed breeding and ground nesting birds. They also have been known to eat the rare giant native centipede and weta; which has a huge impact on NZ’s biodiversity.
4 - Feral cats have a huge impact on the NZ environment as they hunt native birds, bats, lizards, weta and other insects. Domestic cats may have the same instincts, so it’s always best to put a collar, with a bell, on them to warn off their native prey!
5 - Rats have a huge impact in NZ as they are omnivores. They eat birds, seeds, snails, lizards, fruit, weta, eggs, chicks, larvae and flowers. Their varied diet means that they become competitors with NZ native animals who also rely on those food sources.
6 - Rabbits pose a serious threat to NZ. In agriculture, they compete with livestock for pasture and cause extensive damage to land by burrowing. Additionally, as they are a food source for pest predators, they enable the predators to survive and be able to hunt native birds and animals. Contributing to natives becoming extinct.
1 - Giant centipede AKA Cormocephalus rubriceps. Introduced rats now pose a threat to this endemic creature. It can be found in the North Island but more commonly on rat-free islands.
2 - Fairy terns are an endangered species. Conservation is currently in action. It’s believed that introduced predators such as; rats, dogs, cats, hedgehogs and stoats, contributed to it’s population decline.
3 - Kakapo are one of NZ’s unique treasures. They are flightless, nocturnal parrots. There are only just over 200 alive today.They are critically endangered. Introduced predators are one of their threats.
4 - Weta lived to see the dinosaurs! They have evolved into over 70 different species, all of them endemic to NZ. Now, introduced predators such as rats, cats and hedgehogs threaten them, as well as habitat destruction by human impact.
5 - Tuatara are just as old, if not older than Weta! Rats are now considered their most serious threat as they rob their nests of eggs. Tuatara eggs take over a yer to hatch! Leaving plenty of time and opportunity for rats to interfere.
6 - Powelliphanta snails are among the largest snails in the world but they’re also among NZ’s most threatened invertebrates. Possums and rats have played a huge part in decreasing their population and have nearly wiped them out completely.
It may seem that over the years, our population of native animals as a whole has become a lot smaller. To some extent, it has, but with your help, NZ can start to build up the numbers of native creatures again.
We can all play a small part towards conserving NZ’s unique biodiversity.
Are you familiar with what's in your backyard?
Investigate what pests or native animals are in your backyard by tracking them with your own homemade tracker.
Once you know what's in your area, think of yourself as Kaitiaki, a guardian, of the environment around you. What can you do to help protect it? or if it is a pest how can you reduce them?
Visit www.pestdetective.org.nz to learn more.
We’d love to see your creations! Post a photo of your tracker to our Facebook page or simply just tag us in it so we can share! @beautifulmanukau
Download a PDF version to print here:
Biodiversity The variety of plants and animals in an environment.
Species The most detailed form of classification of living things. A group of similar plants or animals that are able to reproduce.
Isolated To be separate from. (Geographical isolation means species of the same animal have been separated so they can no longer reproduce to create different species. This leads to less biodiversity.)
Pests A destructive animal or plant that causes harm to others and/or their environment. Ecosystem Includes all living things in a given area that interact with one another in order to survive.
Eradicating Destroying completely.
Population The number of plants or animals of the same species in a given area at one time.
Content based on Auckland Council Parks Team's lesson plan for Eye on Nature 2020 School Days.
Learn more about Auckland Council Parks Team's Work!