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Can we fix it? Saving our animals from extinction

We all know the name of our native bird that stood over three metres tall and weighed in at more than 200 kilograms. It is, of course, the moa.

And although it lives on in our storytelling, not one person today has seen a moa in the flesh. The same can be said about the beautiful huia and the Chatham bellbird.

Since human settlement, New Zealand has lost one species of bat, at least 51 birds, three frogs, three lizards, one freshwater fish, four plant species and a number of invertebrates. The sad tale of extinction comes from any number of causes, including predators, habitat loss, disease and hunting.

Although we have smartened to our effects on the environment and are well aware of the importance of our native species, we still stand to lose national treasures like the Maui’s dolphin and Kakapo – just two of the more than 200 critically endangered species in New Zealand – if we don’t step up and help.

There are groups across the country big and small, from well-known agencies like DoC and Forest and Bird, to growing projects like the Goodnature humane predator traps and The Cacophony Project, dedicated to improving the outcomes of native species. And of course, there is the ambitious national goal set by the Government to be predator free by 2050.

This year’s Government budget allocated more than $600 million towards environment-focused projects, including $100 million for a Green Investment Fund and $181 million for DOC.

Local councils are actively working to protect areas alongside iwi and government departments and the private sector in an effort to stave off further extinction, and community groups are also mobilising around the goal.

The Island Bay Marine Education Centre in Wellington has been inspiring children and adults alike to learn about marine life since opening in 1996, working with the mantra the “if you know what’s there, you’ll care”. The centre sits in the middle of the Taputeranga Marine Reserve and was instrumental in getting the area reserve status in 2008. Over the last ten years, the regeneration and recovery of marine species in the 9km area has surprised scientists and locals alike.

Then there’s Zealandia, the world’s first fully fenced ecosanctuary – which is also in Wellington – and the Brook-Waimarama sanctuary in Nelson. These are just some of the huge projects safeguarding our ecosystem.

In our big cities, efforts are being made to disentangle economic development from environmental degradation, with many businesses big and small focusing on sustainable growth.

Kiwis’ dedication to making sure our natives hang around is turning the tide on free roaming predators, because, well, how could we be Kiwis with no kiwi?

DoC deputy director general Mervyn English says although New Zealanders have always cared about the environment, over the last 10 years awareness has grown.

“I think there’s just a general understanding of how important the environment is that we live in, the whole level of consciousness is growing quite rapidly.

“There are some business groups that go out every Saturday morning and do their trapping just like they used to go to rugby.”

Advances in technology have also led to an upsurge in momentum in developing traps and innovative ways of targeting predators with “a whole new level of creative thinking”, he says.

English sees that momentum carrying on in years ahead, especially with the goal of Predator Free 2050.

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