NZ Bird Extinctions

General birdwatching discussion, help with bird identification, and all other things relating to wild birds and birding in NZ that don't fit in one of the other forums.
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Re: NZ Bird Extinctions

Postby Boris » Tue Apr 18, 2023 5:45 pm

This is an important subject & I meant to post more comment on it, but couldn't find a remembered paper. However, a recent search turned up Holdaway's excellent work from 1989. Appendix A of this paper is the most complete list of extant & extinct NZ birds I've ever seen in one place.

What surprised me was the relatively short list of post-European extinctions -only 8. This seemed very light, so I had a proper look at them. They are all there -Huia, Piopio, Laughing Owl, NZ Merganser, Lyall's Wren, NZ Quail, Dieffenbach's Rail, NZ Little Bittern. The SI Kokako is not there, presumeably due to lingering doubts re its status. The NI & SI snipes are also missing, maybe because they are still survived by similar sub-species on islands. Bear in mind that some of these 8 were already functionally extinct well before Cpt Cook, but managed to cling to life for a time on tiny island refuges.

What really surprised me was the list of extinctions during the Maori period -45 species! Today we would have to add one or two more that have since turned up (e.g. Scarlett's Shearwater). Probably most of these were due to indirect impacts, esp the pacific rat (kiore) introduced by Maori. This hit our primordial shores with the force of a neutron bomb, wiping out entire ecosytems of small ground birds and greatly attenuating many others.

The reason for this disparity in number of extinctions is not because Maori were worse people than anyone else. If Europeans or Chinese had got here first I believe the end result would have been about the same or worse. It was the fate of Maori to get here first, and the first blow was always going to be the heaviest. If you throw a brick through a shop window, the first blow is the worst. Afterwards all you have are broken pieces.

I endorse what others have said before -conservation is a modern idea and ethos. Early Maori were no better or worse than anybody else. But the real history of human impacts should demolish forever the modern notion of early Maori as superior beings in harmony with nature, as a retrospective fiction.
Holdaway 1989 NZJEcol12_s_11.pdf
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Re: NZ Bird Extinctions

Postby NoahF » Wed Apr 19, 2023 9:51 pm

Jan wrote:I don't intend to be provocative, but what such date lists show is the obvious impact Polynesian settlement had on the fauna they found here after discovering NZ. Around Chch some very large wetland basins are being constructed at present and excavation has found huge roots and remains of matai forest dating to 600yrs BP the same date, more or less, as the loss of the moa and adzebill. Also when forests were being burnt by polynesians in the South Island. There are remains of kahikatia forest around the shores of Lake Ellesmere too.

The Green Party, for which I'm a co-convenor of an electorate in Aoraki/Canterbury, has been asking for members input about several policies connected to rural landuse. One of our charter principles is to uphold te Tiriti o Waitangi, which gives Maori equal say over use of natural resources. I find it somewhat conflicting that it is supposed to be common belief that before colonisation, NZ had communities in balance with their environment. That is patently not true. Anyone got any ideas to help me resolve anything? Anything at all?

I would say that regardless of whether Māori were historically "in balance" with their environment is not entirely relevant in regards to upholding te Tiriti o Waitangi, as it sounds your principles apply to natural resource use today and not 150 years ago. From my (very) limited perspective, Māori are keen to conserve natural ecosystems that hold cultural value to them - and are researching/practicing sustainable harvesting practices when it comes to mahinga kai. Of course it is a complex issue however and many different perspectives depending on iwi. And yes, the values of western conservationism and indigenous peoples are often incompatible - it comes down to trade-offs in what we as a society decide what we should do with our natural resources and land. You can't have a native forest and a dairy farm on the same piece of land. You can't conserve your kereru and eat it too!

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