A bit late with the photo of the week for week 4. Have we really been away a month?
New Zealand is famous for many things but one, which gets the naturalists (as opposed to the naturists) really excited, is its flora and fauna. Breaking away from Australia 85 million years ago, before mammals had developed, New Zealand has evolved a set of unique animals and plants. The UK has 2 species that occur nowhere else. New Zealand has 80,000. Over 80% of the all the animals and plants that are native are endemic. Birds such as the Kiwi (the only bird with nostrils) and the Kea (an Alpine parrot) are unlike any others. The Tuatara is the sole surviving species of a class of reptiles that became extinct everywhere else about 60 million years ago. The Peripatus is like a worm with legs. Trees such as the Kauri and Kahikatea are unlike anything you will see in our forests.
Unfortunately that meant they were ill equipped to deal with the many species that both Maoris and Europeans brought with them, either by accident or by design. Predators such as cats, possums and stoats have wreaked havoc with the indigenous bird population, which, in the absence of mammalian predators, had developed many flightless species. Introduced plants have proved to be just as damaging. Serried ranks of cultivated pine trees are even more depressing here than in Britain. And since humans arrived about 1,000 years ago they have destroyed 75% of the native forest.
But the 25% that remains is magnificent and still covers a significant area. Especially impressive is the beech forests of South Island - best described as temperate rainforest. They will be familiar to most people as they featured heavily in the films of Lord of the Rings. Dank, mysterious, vaguely threatening, they were perfect for the part. And a riot of colour, even if that colour is just green.And this being New Zealand, and not Australia, means that there is nothing nasty lurking in the undergrowth.
So rather than a picture of some exotic animal for this week's photo I have chosen a picture of some forest along the Milford Sound road. Taken no more than 5 minute's walk from the road on a rainy day when the forest is at its best. After all, as several people told us, without rain there wouldn't be any rainforest.