Animals of New Zealand

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The flightless kiwi is a national symbol of New Zealand.

The animals of New Zealand have an unusual history. Humans arrived in New Zealand probably less than 1,300 years ago. At that time the country had no mammals at all, except bats that flew there, and those that swam there, such as seals and sea lions. This meant that all the ecological niches occupied by mammals in other lands were occupied in New Zealand by either insects or birds. Because of this, the country has an unusually large number of flightless birds, including the Kiwi, the Moa, and the Kakapo. Because of the lack of predators, even the bats spend most of their time on the ground. There are also about 60 species of lizard (30 of gecko and 30 of skink), and four species of frog (all rare and endangered).

Humans first arrived from the Pacific Islands at several different times at some time before 1300.[1]. They brought with them the Polynesian Rat (Kiore) and the domesticated dog. Europens later brought pigs, ferrets, stoats, mice, rats, dogs, cats, sheep, cattle, and many other mammals. Of these, the rats, ferrets, cats, stoats and dogs have all had serious effect on the original New Zealand animals. They have driven many species to extinction. Possums were later introduced from Australia for a fur industry, and deer from Europe as animals to be hunted. Both seriously damaged the forest habitat of many birds.

In recent years, successful efforts have been made to remove possums, rats, ferrets, and other mammals from many offshore islands, large and small. This was done to return these places to something more closely resembling their original state. For example, an estimated 30 tons of dead possums were removed from Kapiti Island. People are also trying to control these species on the mainland. In some parts of the mainland, mammals are being completely eliminated inside fenced areas to create "ecological islands". Examples are the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary in Wellington City, from which about a ton of dead possums was removed after the installation of a mammal-proof fence, and the Maungatautari Restoration Project.

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