One of the strangest things about New Zealand is that originally it had no land mammals, no snakes, no fruit trees, and no cereal grains or grasses of the kinds that animals eat. There was one poisonous insect, a little spider that lives on some of the beaches. When the Maoris came to the islands, they brought some dogs and a kind of black rat with them in their canoes, but there are none of these dogs left now, and the rats are very rare. When the white settlers come here, they had to bring into the country all of the cattle, sheep, and other domesticated animals. They also had to import clover and other pasture grasses for the animals to eat, and then they had to import bees to pollinate the clover.
Yet today New Zealand is one of the greatest sheep and cattle countries in the world, and has many fruit trees. Deer, pheasants, rainbow trout, rabbits, stoats and ferrets are among the kinds of animals and freshwater fish that have been brought to New Zealand and have flourished. Unfortunately, the results of bringing in these strangers have not always been good. The rabbits became such pests, destroying the farmers’ crops that the government had to take measures to destroy as many as possible. The ferrets and stoats, and cats which had become wild, also became plague to the farmers in outlaying districts, and killed so many of the wonderful wingless birds, like the kiwi, and destroyed so many of the other birds, that refuges had to be created to protect the bird life.
There are many lovely songbirds in New Zealand, such as the tui, or parson-bird, and the makomako. The kea (photo, above), a hawk like green parrot, has learned how to be a nuisance, for it has become skilful at killing sheep, piercing their backs with its sharp beak to get at the fat which surrounds the kidneys.