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Lessons from our endemic creatures of Aotearoa

Updated: Jun 3, 2020

Covid-19 is challenging humans all over the globe to think different to the way they go about their daily lives. Some of the creatures right here in Aotearoa have some important lessons we can take inspiration from; including our Moa and Tuatara.

Hundreds of millions of years ago, New Zealand was catapulted across the sea away from the giant land mass, Gondwanaland. The NZ islands became isolated and large flightless birds roamed the dense bush. These birds had no need to fly as there were no animals to hunt them on the ground. They were safe on the forest floor.

The largest of these birds was the Moa. It is endemic to New Zealand and had many features which helped it to survive in New Zealand’s unique environment.

These features are known as adaptations:

The Moa is now extinct. It’s survival was impacted by changes in it’s habitat caused by introduced predators. The eruption of the volcano, Rangitoto, may also have played a part in it’s extinction.

NZ has many endemic creatures. One of the many that still survive today is the Tuatara. The Tuatara has successfully survived for millions of years through the many changes in New Zealand’s environment. It is often referred to as a “Living Fossil”. Today it is threatened by introduced predators, much like the Moa was.

What does the Tuatara need to survive and can we help?

First, let’s look at the adaptations of the Tuatara:

Based on its features, what kind of habitat would the Tuatara survive best in?

Look at it’s colouring, what does this remind you of? Would it be helpful for the Tuatara to stand out from it’s environment (and potentially be seen by predators) or hide away? If it’s awake at night, where would it go during the day? Where would it keep its eggs away from predators, for over a year? Think about what kind of temperature it likes to be.


Now it’s your turn!

Can you build a habitat for a Tuatara from what you’ve got at home?

We’d love to see your creations! Post a photo of your Tuatara Habitat to our Facebook page or simply just tag us in it so we can share! @beautifulmanukau


Vocabulary List:

Endemic A plant or animal that lives only in a particular location. It can’t be found anywhere else.

Isolated To be separate from. Extinct No longer exist or around anymore.

Unique The only one of its kind. Unlike anything else.

Introduced An animal or plant living outside of its usual habitat. It arrives in the new environment by human activity, either on purpose or by accident.


Content based on Auckland Zoo's and Auckland Museum's lesson plans for the Eye on Nature 2020 School Days.

Learn more about Auckland Zoo and Auckland Museum.

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