Why are there no large predators in NZ?
When we talk about predators in terms of the New Zealand environment, we don’t often mean the same kinds of predators you’d find in most countries overseas.
That’s because New Zealand simply never had any large predators, and the only main ones we have now are those that were introduced with the arrival of man, such as possums and stoats.
So why did we skip the boat on tigers, bears, and other large predators?
New Zealand separated from Gondwanaland an estimated 80 million years ago, which means it has spent a significant amount of time as an isolated island. During this time, the flora and fauna on the land evolved away from other regions in isolation.
This all happened around the time of the great mass extinction, according to NZ website Science Learn, which eradicated a massive number of species and wiped out the dinosaurs completely. After this event, large mammals and predators were able to thrive without the dinosaurs, yet for some unknown reason, New Zealand didn’t go through the same process.
As we did not have many mammals at the time, the species that grew were insects, plantlife, and birds.
The lack of natural predators in New Zealand is a large part of why the country has become one of so many birds – especially flightless ones. Without larger animals to eradicate these vulnerable bird species long ago, they were able to thrive in a natural sanctuary void of threats. It’s why we still have so many wonderful species today.
You can see the result of this evolutionary process on any Auckland day tour as we visit natural habitats around the city to spot endemic birds such as the kiwi, and trees such as the kauri.
Tristan Cullen - Passionate Conservationist