Our world is facing a biodiversity crisis so severe that many scientists have labeled it as the sixth great mass extinction in Earth’s history. Conservation efforts to date have focused on endangered species and “biodiversity hotspots” , relatively small areas with large numbers of species. Most of these hotspots are in areas you’d expect them to be, places like coral reefs and tropical rain forests. One surprising biodiversity hotspot is New Zealand.
Though New Zealand is best known for it’s two largest islands, the country has over 700 islands larger than one hectare. Additionally, New Zealand is isolated- hundreds of miles of Pacific ocean separate it from Australia, and it’s farther still from Asia or South America. Similar to the Galapagos, this isolation has led to an extremely high rate of “endemic” species, plants and animals that are native to an area and aren’t found anywhere else on Earth.
New Zealand is particularly famous for its unique birds. You may have heard of the kiwi, a word which has become slang for a New Zealander*, but this nation is also known as the “seabird capital of the world“. In total, there are more than 60 endemic bird species found there.