New Zealand National Parks
New Zealand is country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean about 900 miles to the east of Australia. The country consists of two larger islands and a number of small islands.
New Zealand has some of the most interesting native flora and fauna found anywhere on the planet. Nearly 80 percent of New Zealand’s trees and other plants are endemic to New Zealand having evolved in geographical isolation for 80 million years. New Zealand, when first discovered by European’s was like a land that time had forgotten, as many of it’s native plants and animals were found nowhere else in the world.
The native flora found in New Zealand includes, rainforests full of tawa, matai, rimu, beech, and rata; tall evergreen forests of kohekohe and kauri; beautiful temperature tree ferns, tussock grasslands; dunelands with spinifex and pingao; and alpine and subalpine meadows.
New Zealand has many interesting species of native birds, lizards, frogs, fish, and insects. New Zealand’s only native mammals are three species of bats and its marine mammals. Almost half the world’s cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and porpoises) are found in the waters around New Zealand. The lack of terrestrial mammalian predators allowed several species of flightless birds, like the kiwi, kakapo and takahē, to evolve in New Zealand.
Because of its remoteness, it was one of the last places on earth to be settled by human beings. Man did not come to New Zealand until the late 13th or early 14th century, when it is thought that the Polynesian ancestors of the Māori, first settled in New Zealand.
The Māori are a distinct culture of indigenous people, that Europeans found in New Zealand when they arrived during the 17th and 18th centuries.
Since humans first arrived in New Zealand, nearly half of the vertebrate species have gone extinct. Fifty-one species of birds, three species of frogs, three species of lizards, one species of freshwater fish, and one of the three species of bat no longer exist on this planet, and many other species of New Zealand wildlife are endangered or threatened.
Many of New Zealand’s fascinating animals are now protected in one or more of New Zealand’s 14 national parks.