New Zealand’s native biodiversity is unique and was born from millions of years of geographic isolation and the absence of marsupials and other mammals (except for three species of bat, and a small mouse-like fossil found close to Dunedin). Many of these flora, fauna and ecosystems have evolved in a distinctive manner and can’t be found anywhere else – the US biologist Jared Diamond described New Zealand as being similar to studying ‘life on another planet’ because of the many endemic species living here. Since the arrival of the Maori and Europeans, mammals have been slowly introduced and the original forest cover has been destroyed. Historically, New Zealand was completely forested from the alpine tree-line down to the coast; however, only a quarter remains. Introduced mammals have preyed on New Zealand’s largely defenceless native species causing many species to become extinct, particularly the flightless birds that evolved to live on the ground.
The Department of Conservation is largely responsible for the conservation of our native species, so future generations can enjoy and access areas where biodiversity has been maintained or enhanced. Recently, their budget was slashed by $54 million – although they are recognised as world leaders in conservation, they need continued help from local communities, businesses, and private organisations to meet targets.
The Otago Peninsula is home to several rare species and many local people donate their time on various projects – we are concentrating on a predator control program we hope to continually extend. Our aim is to increase populations of Yellow-Eyed penguins, Sooty Shearwaters, and Jeweled Geckos that inhabit an area we operate in. If you would like to make a donation to our program, or ‘sponsor a trap’, please get in touch with us for further information.
Back to Nature Tours also donates a minimum of 100 hours labour to the Sinclair Wetlands (Te Nohoaka o Tukiauau), an internationally renowned wetland located 40 minutes drive south of Dunedin. The wetland links Lake Waihola and Waipori on the edge of the Taieri Plains and is home to over 60 species of birds.