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Presented and Narrated by Dr Tim Flannery Author of the Future Eaters Narration: Australasia is the most isolated and distinctive region, on earth.At its heart is the world's largest island - Australia. A continent born out of barren earth worn down by wind and water for an infinity before man. But since the time humans arrived, a new element has shaped this land.
Fire has been the destroyer, and the creator of life here -in a cycle that goes on to this day.
Narration: This region more than any other has been transformed, by humans. By the first arrivals - the Aborigines of Australia. By the Maori of New Zealand, who came from Polynesia in great ocean going canoes - and by the people who followed in the wake of Captain Cook -the latest to set foot on these shores - the third and final wave of the people I call the future eaters. Tim Flannery Author of 'The Future Eaters' Flannery: "The thing that sets us apart from the people of the old world - is that we are all invaders. We're colonisers - from three great waves of human invasion into this region and I believe all Australasians share something else in common - we are all Future Eaters. Together we've so upset the balance of life here that we
threaten the very land that support us and through that our own survival." Narration: Our story begins here, in Australia. A vast stage - upon which life has led it's own distinctive, evolutionary dance.This land is dominated by creatures that have survived nowhere else on the planet. Platypus swimming, koala in tree We all recognise these improbable animals today, but what made them so different? - and how was our natural history changed when humans first arrived here? Flannery: "I'm setting out on a journey across this land, but what I'm really trying to do is travel back in time. That's because much of this story happened so long ago, that it's difficult to find evidence to support it. But all over this country, in it's plant, in it's animals, in it's rocks, you find clues as to the way things were. And from that we can start to tell about the forces that shaped this country, the things that made Australia what it is today" Narration: All the lands of Australasia have developed from the earliest times, as worlds apart. 90 million years ago the ancient continent of Gondwana began to fragment. Tasmantis broke off first, to form New Zealand, and New Caledonia.
Narration:Then, Meganesia - floating on a massive continental crust formed New Guinea, Tasmania, and the great continent of Australia.
In an evolutionary sense, Australia is a unique experiment. On every other continent the 'placental' mammals, big energy users like lions, elephants - and even humans, have won the evolutionary race.
But here, in a race for extreme energy efficiency, these creatures, marsupials like the kangaroos - have evolved to a position of pre-eminence.
The largest marsupial in the world, is the red kangaroo. No other animal this big hops - but hopping allows the kangaroo to recapture the energy of each bound, in the tendons of its legs. The force of each leap pushes its gut back, drawing air into its lungs - saving it from using chest muscles to breath. Hopping has made the kangaroo one of the most energy efficient travellers on the planet. The special conditions that drove this quest for energy efficiency are most apparent here - in the so called dead heart of the continent. This land has such old and poor soil that if you're not efficient you don't survive. Flannery: "If you wanna understand the history of this continent there's no better place to come than here Uluru the timeless rounded features of the rock show that it just hasn't been disturbed for hundreds of millions of years, there's been no volcanoes, no mountain building, no ice age here to rejuvenate this place and as a result the soil here is old, leeched and exhausted all that's left really is just sand."
Uluru - Central Australia
Tim Flannery Uluru, Central Australia
Narration: The roots of Australia's infertility lie in its thick crust. It hasn't crumpled to form mountains, or been punctured by volcanoes. Most importantly the ice age was unkind to Australia. There were no glaciers to grind the rocks, and release the elements that life depends on. Instead, the land lay comatose. Its nutrients have been slowly leaching, and blowing away for eons.It's one of natures great paradoxes, that the poorest ground supports the greatest bio-diversity. The infertile soils of Western Australia give life to over ten thousand species. In this heathland known as kwongan, there aren't enough resources for these plants to overwhelm each other - so they're forced to co-exist. Flannery: "These soils are so poor that strongly competitive species just haven't been able to dominate, instead we've got this fantastic biodiversity and a most peculiar biodiversity it is too, yes these plants are so adapted to the infertility of the place that the common garden fertiliser you throw on your garden to make it grow will actually kill them." Narration: The plants of the heathland have had to developed intimate relationships with insects and other animals - for their survival. The scarlet banksia lures the tiny honey possum with it's abundant nectar. This marsupial is the only mammal to depend entirely on flowers for its food - and as it feeds, it polinates the plants of the heathland. But how can such a rich ecosystem have grown out of such adversity? Prof. Mike Archer University of New South Wales Mike Archer: "The colossal levels of bio-diversity that characterise the Australian heath some the what looks to be most
Australian Native Flower
Honey Dew Possum
inhospitable, infertile-type country has to do with this unique Australian response to the these environments. The soils were very nutrient-poor. But that enabled little pockets of animals and plants to start to develop as unique things in a hundred thousand different places." Narration: Here, nature has been turned on it's head. Plants, have even become predators - like the pitcher plant which lures insects into it's specially evolved trap - where they are consumed in the plants own juices. Even more extraordinary are the sundews they've evolved movement to actively capture their prey, and extract the minerals that the soil is unable to yield.
Prof. Mike Archer
Flannery: Australia's plants and animals have been so successful in dealing with the infertility of this continent, that often they've created what amounts to a grand illusion, and nowhere is that more apparent than here in the rainforest.
Narration: In northern Queensland, the rich tropical forests of are home to Australia's greatest bio-diversity Tree kangaroos have only recently left their ground dwelling relatives. Now they forage in the safety of the rainforest canopy. The bizarre mating dance of the rifle bird is just one of the many extravagant displays of life in this living Eden. On the forest floor, the brush turkey builds it's mound. It's one of the few birds that uses heat generated by the decomposing litter, to incubate its eggs. The same rotting leaf litter releases the essentials for life so rapidly, that nothing has the chance to escape. It makes the rainforest one of the most efficient re-cycling systems ever evolved. But elsewhere, the quest for efficiency has had quite a different outcome.
Flannery: "They say that the eye's are the windows to the soul, but really they lead straight to the brain, and the brain of the koala tells a story of evolutionary woe that you just wouldn't believe." Narration:In the eucalypt forest, a koala and her young cub search for the tender new growth that make up their entire diet. But eucalypt leaves are so full of dangerous chemicals and so low in nutrients, that the koala has evolved to be one of the greatest energy misers, of all time. It moves slowly and has a low reproductive rate, but it's made one even greater sacrifice. Flannery: "Marsupials are notorious for having tiny brains, but the koala has really gone out on a limb because it's the only mammal on earth whose brain doesn't fit its skull, 40% of the space inside there is just fluid, and that's because the brain is a real extravagance. It takes more energy to run than any other organ in the body. And the koala has traded brain power for survival". Narration: Australia's three species of wombat are the only large herbivores in the world, that live in burrows. By spending long periods underground, they require only a third as much food as a similar-sized kangaroo. Kangaroos bound off It's long been believed that the marsupials are primitive relics -surviving in Australia only because of its isolation, but on the contrary now we're seeing just how well they've adapted to Australia's demanding conditions. Prof. Mike Archer University of New South Wales Mike Archer: It's entirely possible that marsupials are better adapted to the kind of strenuous demands that Australia has placed on mammals of any... any kind than placental
mammals might have been. They certainly have an extremely wide, what's called, "metabolic scope". They're very responsive to changes in the climate, to temperature. They're much more tolerant of environmentaly stressful conditions, placentals are fussier about what they need to survive, that may have given marsupials an edge. Marsupials were so successful, that before humans arrived - Australia was a land of giants. Narration: Of all the marsupial megafauna, the largest was Diprotodon. Weighing over a tonne, it was another energy conserver - with a tiny brain. music 6 fades out track past models. Diprotodon model Diprotodon was just one of sixty species of megafauna, that once roamed the land. Giant flightless birds, horned turtles, and at least 20 kinds of kangaroo. At Flinders university in Adelaide they're being brought back to life. Assoc. Prof. Rod Wells. Flinder's University Rod Wells: "The interesting thing about the megafauna is that of course they're all leaf eaters, or browsers, and that way of life is the way of life of a junk food eater, um these animals eat the rubbish plants and as a result of that they have to be large, // If you have long legs, you have long stride. // An animal the size of Diprotodon, for instance, would probably move at about 8 to 9 kilometres per hour." Narration: The giant short faced kangaroo was unlike any living species. Indeed, in some ways it had evolved to resemble humans. Leigh Milne Fright 3D Special Effects Leigh Milne: "It's very tall when it's standing up, it's higher than a man with a short face, with bifocal vision, massively thickset, and performing an action that is unique to these animals I believe, is that they can raise their arms above their shoulders, and that's how
Prof. Mike Archer
Prof.Rod Wells Flinder's University
Short Faced Kangaroo
they used to grasp vegetation and pull it down to eat. And so, if you have a thing like this, stooped, muscular... working through the trees and the bushes in the early morning, well, you might well imagine it's a man beast" Narration: The megafauna thrived in Australia for millions of years - in fact they were here till just 60,000 years ago. Flannery: "It might seem like a far off and exotic time when giant creatures like these walked the landscape, but really all of the native animals that you can see in Australia today were already in existence by then. You could have heard the same kookaburras in the trees, and seen the same lizards and snakes on the ground. But on top of all of that was this magnificent megafauna. As diverse and spectacular as Africa has today. And the big question really is what happened to these creatures. Well I think they might have gone on and on if it hadn't been for a new species developing in far off Africa - and that species was us".
Tim Flannery Australian Museum
Narration: Our ancestors began their long journey out of Africa - over a hundred thousand years ago. They were the product of a different evolutionary race - a tooth and claw fight with the fiercest predators on the planet. Travelling eastwards, they eventually reached South East Asia - an island realm rich in coastal resources - where they lived from the bounty of the sea. The need to harvest marine life - like turtle eggs, from off shore islands -would have been the incentive that drove them, to develop the worlds first water craft An invention essential to the next stage of their migration. In what is now eastern Indonesia, they reached the edge of the world they knew there a water barrier, almost one hundred
kilometres of open sea, stood before them. Aerial track from headland to sea, No-one can be certain when humans first crossed that water barrier - the sea that isolated Meganesia from the rest of the world. The best estimate is between 40 and 60 thousand years ago - a time when Australia and New Guinea were still joined The first humans to enter what is now New Guinea, would have been astonished by the fauna. They'd never have seen huge flightless birds like the cassowary before - nor marsupials, like the cuscus. At first they lived by hunting and gathering in the dense rainforest. As these Aboriginal migrants moved into the highlands of New Guinea they found rich volcanic soils. Here they settled for the first time. They became some of the worlds earliest farmers domesticating and cultivating plants from the forest, and giving the world key food crops like taro, and sugar cane.
This new settled way of life allowed them to develop sophisticated societies - whose culture has some of the most spectacular of all human rituals.
Living in balance with nature, their traditional way of life survives even today.
Rising sea levels divided New Guinea from Australia just 10,000 years ago.
But long before then, perhaps as much as 60,000 years ago, people had already moved south. These first Australians, would have encountered some of the most fearsome cold blooded carnivores, since the age of the dinosaurs. The largest reptile of all was a relative of the lace monitor - the seven meter long, Megalania. Narration: For millions of years the megafauna had survived with these giant predators - but they had no defences against man. Flannery: "To Australia's megafauna this was a deadly weapon.... and that's because these huge creatures were built for supreme energy efficiency, they were slow moving and despite their enormous heads they had tiny brains, but worst of all they'd evolved for millions of years in an ecosystem where nothing like humans had ever existed and that made them naive, they had no fear of human hunters" Narration: The new arrivals had evolved in competition with the great predators of the African savanna - but it was only when they entered Meganesia, that their language and stone tools gave them a decisive advantage. They had left behind their predators and diseases, and were about to become all powerful beings, in a virgin land. As they moved south - beyond the Arnhem land plateau, they found game-rich forests and grasslands - ideal for hunting the vast herds of megafauna.
Australia's open landscape would have enabled people to quickly spread across the continent - following trails that linked watering and feeding sites for the megafauna.
The ancestors of the Aborigines had stumbled across, what appeared to be - a land of plenty. The prey they feasted on was large and tame, and easily hunted. I think it's possible, that these people could have unleashed a wave of extinctions - across the entire continent. Assoc. Prof. Rod Wells. Flinders University Rod Wells: "Throughout the world, in the Pleistocene, we've seen extinction of these large animals. And that extinction's always been correlated with the spread of human beings, across the surface of the globe. And, of course, the immediate inference is that humans are the agent responsible for their extinction. But it's also a period that correlates, of course, with major climatic change, associated with global glaciation. And so you've got two confounding variables there." Narration: Was it climate change that killed off Australia's megafauna, or was it man? It's probably the hottest issue in Australia's pre history. Until recently, it was thought the megafauna died out, around 20,000 years ago - the height of the last ice age. But now some intriguing evidence has turned up out here - in the centre of the continent.
Prof. Rod Wells
Today, Lake Eyre is a salt lake - hostile to just about all life. It's so hot out here, that the tiny Lake Eyre dragon walks on it's heels, to avoid burning it's toes. It feeds on the ants, that harvest insects - blown onto the baking salt crust.
Lake Eyre Dragon
But life here hasn't always been so hard. The lake was once permanently full and teeming with life - a favoured breeding ground for the giant flightless bird - Geniornus. About twice as heavy as today's emu, it's axe-like beak suggests that it could eat tough vegetation. It was a member of the megafauna, that lived along the once lush shores of Lake Eyre. Remnants of life from that time, have accumulated here - for the last two hundred thousand years. From these bands of sediment, we can tell what lived here - and when they died. Flannery "These cliffs preserve a record of great climate change, the rocks here were layed down at a time when this lake was full and was teeming with life, there's even remains of megafauna here mostly egg shells of the great extinct bird Genyornis, but the interesting part of that story is up over here." If Geniornus died out because of climate change in the last ice age, then their egg shells would be here in the top layers of sediment - laid down 20,000 years ago. But the shell is only found in the older, lower layers - going back to a time when the climate was mild. It suggests that Genironus became extinct much earlier - at the same time that I think humans arrived.
Flannery: "This is the piece of an egg shell laid by one of the last Genyornis ever to live in this area, it's 60,000 thousand years old which is about 40,000 years before the great climatic crisis of the last ice age, which was previously though to cause the extinction of the megafauna. It suggests that it was something earlier which caused the extinction of these great animals was it the arrival of humans my guess is that it was and that it occurred throughout this continent long before climate change could have ever had an effect on these animals" This is the first hard evidence that the arrival of humans, rather than climate, played the decisive role in megafaunal extinction. But it was just the beginning of a cascade of changes, that would reverberate through Australia's ecosystems. The extinction of the megafauna destroyed a balance between plants and animals, that had evolved over millions of years - now countless tonnes of uneaten food covered the land. Flannery: "If the last of the diprotodons were dying these vast plains and woodlands and rainforests were empty but the vegetation those animals ate was still growing, here, building up just waiting for that spark that would set the continent ablaze"
Narration: This place has always been struck by lightning, but now it ignited huge fires fuelled by the built up vegetation.
Fire had always been here in small areas like the heathlands, but now great walls of flame swept across the land, threatening the survival of the smaller animals. A devastating new force had been unleashed.
It's hard to know what happened next -but there's evidence in the landscape, that the nature of the country was dramatically changed - by fire. This is just one tiny remnant of the fire sensitive forests that once covered vast areas of the continents north, and east. Flannery: "It's places like these that I think offer us some clues as to the way Australia has changed in the past, here a hot fire has eaten deep into a rainforest and eucalypts are taking over, and that's the kind of pattern I think happened again and again over northern and eastern Australia when fire was first let loose on this continent." Narration: Rainforests are killed by fire, but the Eucalypts had evolved in the fire prone areas, and they thrived on it. In an unholy alliance with fire, the eucalypts spread across the continent - destroying the original forests, creating the Australian landscape we know today. I think the triumph of the eucalypts was to change, even the climate of the continent. The original forests had acted like a sponge storing huge quantities of moisture, and transpiring it back into the atmosphere. This allowed the monsoon rains to penetrate hundreds of kilometres south. The rains fed a permanent river system, that flowed inland filling the lakes at the heart of the continent. They were a haven for great hosts of birds. Pelicans, cormorants, stilts, all came here to breed - in their millions. Narration: It was clearly a different environment from what you see today. John Magee has been studying the climate record here - dating back to the time when Lake Eyre was permanently full. John Magee Australian National University Magee: "A lake is a bit like a rain gauge for the continent it represents moisture that's coming into
the continent from the monsoon and early in this phase of sediments that we see in this cliff which start back at 120,000 years ago we see a very full lake and a lake that was obviously supporting a lot of wildlife, the rivers must have been perennially ﬂowing from Qld into here" Narration: But how did Australia's great inland sea, become a dry Magee: "One possible explanation is that changes in the vegetation in the catchments up in the monsoon area has prevented effective penetration of the moisture form the monsoon into those catchments." Narration: The newly established eucalypt forests couldn't retain water - rain was no longer carried inland - the rivers stopped flowing. The arrival of humans had sent the land spiralling out of control. Fire storms ravaged the country. Plants, animals and resources were being destroyed - and people faced dramatic climate change.
It was a world that should be familiar to modern Australians.
Narration: The story of how the first future eaters recovered from this disaster - is one of humanities greatest triumphs. Flannery: "About 20 kilometres up this road here is Oenpelli, in Arhnem Land. And that's the place where Aboriginal culture has survived, least influenced, over the last 200 years. And there we can get some real insights into how people have lived in this continent for tens of thousands of years, before Europeans ever arrived here."
Narration: In time, the way Aboriginal people learned to live with the land - would give rise to an entirely new, and radically different human culture.
Aboriginal Rock Art, Arhnem Land
Narration: The Aborigines who live at Oenpelli, believe their ancestors arrived here from the north, carried across the seas by Yingana - the creation mother. Flannery: "Wow that's amazing isn't it fantastic, I've never seen anything like that before" Aboriginal rock art, and religion, are among the oldest on the planet. Flannery: "This is stunning there must be hundreds and hundreds of img on that aye, and that's the kangaroo kolobarr, barramundi." Narration: The rock paintings of Arnhem Land depict a great human endeavour, that goes back - beyond recorded time. Flannery:"This is the most amazing delicate rock art I've ever seen, beautiful red ochre on a white quartzite base, it's just extraordinarily complex and it's full of meaning but I just lack the key at the moment to understand it what it's trying to say to me. It's a record of life here I guess for who knows how many thousands of years". Narration: Their art has survived - but the story of how these people learned to live with this land, has been largely lost. They must have faced a crucial challenge - their very existence was threatened. Taming the fire, was the first step towards creating a new balance.When Aborigines first picked up the firestick they held a powerful tool. I think they learned to fight fire with fire, and began to burn off the built up vegetation reducing the fuel load that was feeding the raging wild fires. Eventually, this developed
Rock Painting in Arnhem Land
Aboriginal Rock Art, Arhnem Land
into a highly sophisticated system of 'firestick farming' - still practiced in parts of northern and central Australia. Knowledge of how to manage the land through burning, has been passed on by countless generations of tribal elders. Nugget Dawson Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park Nugget: "A long time ago, we would watch fires burning along in the distance. We would see other fires burning towards us too. The fires would burn for days, not at sacred places, mind you. That was the way, burning off to regenerate new grass for kangaroos, as well as other edible food plants." Narration: Animals in burnt land The bush was burned into a patchwork of old and new growth. It made an ideal habitat for the remaining smaller animals. They actually flourished under this regime of firestick farming - and could now be hunted sustainably. For the Aborigines, burning was remarkably like farming, because it brought new growth food for the animals they hunted. Nugget Dawson Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park Nugget: We burn fires which frighten the meat animals away, but they only go as far as the next woodland, and by the next afternoon they're back. When the rain falls the kangaroos find new green growth and they'll breed and multiply. Kangaroos are our meat, but they get very thin if there is no green feed. Many of our own delicious foods grow here too. Like desert raisins, bush tomatoes, sweet nectar. Food for us black people, for Anangu Aboriginal people.
Nugget Dawson Elder of the Anangu Aboriginal people.
Narration: These people harvested the fruit and grain producing plants that grew in the wake of their burning. The big question is, why they never took the next step and cultivated them. But this continent was different. On top of the problem of poor soils, there was drought. Long before the arrival of man, Australia was already at the mercy of El Nino - an erratic cycle of drought and flood. The problem all Australia's inhabitants face is never knowing when the next drought will strike. They've got to be prepared to make to best of the good times. Female kangaroos are constantly pregnant, or have a young one in the pouch. That way, the young kangaroo has a head start when the drought breaks. Rock wallabies can take advantage of the briefest showers. They can even carry water in their mouths to their young, waiting safely above. The most widespread adaptation is nomadism - and the banded stilt is possibly the most extraordinary nomad in the world. They can wait on the coast for up to a decade for the drought to break - then, within days of rain filling the inland lakes, they fly thousands of kilometres, to begin their breeding cycle. In just seven weeks, these remarkable birds can produce two clutches of eggs. Their hatchlings feed on the rich briny soup which fills the lakes. After just three weeks, they're ready to fly. Life on this continent has always depended on movement from place to place - to live with the cycle of drought and flood.
The Aborigines found that they could be no different. The vagaries of Australia's climate kept them on the move. They simply couldn't settle down like people elsewhere, to cultivate their land. Instead, they moved across the land -following what were to them 'highways', linking resources from one place to another. Nugget Dawson Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park Nugget: We people have walked everywhere since time began. This is how I used to walk travelling along, following our Iwara. Not along roads, but far across the land by foot. It's not like travelling in a motor car. It's putting one foot in front of the other. We walked following the rainfall, and stayed where it had fallen. We drank from all the different rock holes, and lived around them for a while. After living there for a while we'd go off travelling to somewhere else. So we'd cover the entire landscape hunting and living. This is how we used to live. No white people. Narration: The laws governing these journeys are still passed down, from one generation to the next - in song. They sing the paths the Aboriginal people followed, as they travelled across their country. They are a guide - to food, water, and safe passage. The knowledge recorded in song helped the widely spread clans to come together. Sometimes their journeys spanned the continent. These 'highways' became known to Europeans as songlines. To Aboriginal people they are a map, survival guide, and title deed, rolled into one.
Flannery: "This ceremony represents just one small link in a great chain of human relationships that linked people in time and place right across Australia, it essentially turned this continent into a living network of societies, and in an age before modern transport and communication that has to represent one of humanities greatest achievements." After having changed everything, these people had set a new pattern for living with the special conditions of Australia. Narration: They'd established a remarkable ecological stability - there's little evidence of extinctions in the land, for tens of thousands of years. But it was a delicate balance. About three and a half thousand years ago, the first domesticated animal reached Australia and New Guinea - the dingo. In Asia, the dingo, had already become man's best friend. This predator's exquisite sense of smell, and ability to track - became a gift to Aboriginal hunters. Together, man and dingo made a devastatingly efficient hunting team - but they were hunting the same prey as the last of the large carnivorous marsupials.
The Tasmanian devil, was once widespread across the continent. It was essentially a scavenger, but soon after the arrival of the dingo, both it, and the dog like thylacine disappeared from mainland Australia. They were simply out-competed by humans with pack hunting dingos.It could have been the beginning of another wave of extinctions. Animals of the rainforest, like tree kangaroos were particularly vulnerable. I think they survived, because people created sacred sites, which they call 'story places'. They were sanctuaries where no humans could enter, places where fire and hunting were taboo - areas where animals were
protected. Flannery: "Most people don't realise how preoccupied the Aborigine's were with the sustainable use of their resources, story places were often conservation reserves, and they included the prime breeding habitat of many species as the animal built up in side the reserves they'd move outside where they could be sustainably hunted. They were a really ingenious solution to the extreme conservation difficulties that people face in a place like Australia." Story places are just one aspect of a complex culture that created a new balance in this land. Great meetings of the clans, called corroborees by some tribes - allowed access to trade and marriage partners - from outside the clan. But most importantly, they created a network of kinship bonds across the continent guaranteeing their freedom to move through the country.
But always, they managed their land - and that was the key not just to their survival - but to the survival of the land itself. Flannery: "When I was a child I was told that this was a wild place, I was taught that it was an empty land - a terra nullius. But really this is a human artefact, for in a very real sense Aboriginal people created this environment, and they developed a way of living here which endured the test of time for 40,000 years , when my people arrived here, they threw that lesson away and today we're struggling with the same problems of fire, species extinction and climate change that the Aboriginal people triumphed over 40,000 years ago"
Narration: The aborigines were the first people to so alter their environment that they threatened their own existence. But they went through the complete cycle of future eating, and eventually developed a highly sophisticated response, to this most fragile of continents. In the end they created an entirely new ecology - one that depended on them for its very survival. For they were the people, who tamed the fire. END ROLLER
© 1998, Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
Presented and Narrated by Dr Tim Flannery Author of the Future Eaters Narration: Between 3,500 and 1000 years ago, the Pacific Ocean was criss-crossed by a sea people, nomadic wanderers who colonised the islands of Polynesia and beyond. These Hawaiian sailors are their descendants, and their twin-hulled canoe - or 'waka' - is an accurate reconstruction of the vessels used by the first Polynesians for their extraordinary voyages of migration. To mark the achievements of their ancestors, these sailors have re-traced the route to the southern ocean, to the most distant and difficult land to reach, on the fringes of Australasia. The Polynesians called this land Aotearoa, but we know it today as New Zealand. And the descendants of those first colonisers, out here in force to welcome the waka from their ancestral homeland, are now called the Maori. After the Aboriginal peoples, some 40,000 years before, this was the next wave of humans to arrive in Australasia, and Iike the Aborigines in Australia, they too were to have a profound impact on nature. Tim Flannery Author of "The Future Eaters" Flannery: In Australia, it's hard to know what it was like in the beginning, when humans first arrived - the detail's are just lost in the mists of time. And we don't really know how a future eating cycle will end because us Europeans have arrived here so recently that we haven't yet seen the full impact that we've made on this continent. So if you really want to understand future eating the place to be is here in New Zealand, because here
Dr Tim Flannery
a whole cycle of future eating has taken place in just 800 years. The story really has gone full circle. Maori chant: 'Sow your seed, scatter to the wind You may die, but there is still the life force The flowing currents will help, o voyager How many wait for the wind? O swimmer, ever strong See the godwit flying there One has landed on the shore Landed, landed, landed there forever'. Narration: No-one exactly knows why the Polynesian ancestors of the Maori set out on their great voyages of colonisation, in huge ocean-going canoes. The largest of these sophisticated sailing craft could carry up to 250 people, as well as the plants and animals that they'd need to start a new life. They were nomads of the wind, who settled on remote tropical islands, and lived there until food resources were exhausted. Then they packed up their waka and moved on, navigating by the stars. They first moved into the Pacific from south-east Asia. For 2,000 years, they spread east and north before finally heading south from Eastern Polynesia to the land that was later to be known as New Zealand. Aerials on coast When it finally came, landfall in Aotearoa must have been exhilarating. With a landmass of over 250,000 square kilometres, this new land was bigger than all of the rest of Polynesia put together. Consisting of two mountainous islands, swathed in dense forest, this was one of the last great wildernesses. Landscapes And, unlike Australia, this was a cool, moist and fertile land, quite different from the tiny tropical islands the voyagers had encountered before. Flannery: 'What these people had discovered wasn't just another island, it was a whole new micro-continent and it was different from their homelands because this place wasn't tropical. It was so far south that entire mountains were covered in snow. It was a coool and ancient land, that really wasn't suited to their tropical agriculture and lifestyle but I think what would have struck them most of all was that this place would have seemed to stretch on forever and ever and it would have been teeming with wildlife.
Narration: When word got back to Polynesia of the bounty that could be found in the seas, coasts and forests of Aoteoroa, it's highly probable that a mass planned colonisation followed. Compared to the tiny tropical islands of the Pacific, this was land was massive, and teeming with game. The travellers from across the ocean had never seen wildlife of this kind before, or on this scale. And so they began to set down roots in this land of plenty, this gift from their gods. Away from the coasts, they found a world of mystery: ancient, primeval forests, unlike anything they'd encountered before, full of extraordinary creatures. For these misty canopies, and the species within them, had evolved in isolation from the rest of the world: ever since the break-up of the former continent of Gondwana, 80 million years ago. This was a strange and unique land, like no other on Earth. Even today some of the animals are living testament to the islands' ancient past. The tuatara is a primitive reptile of a kind thought to be 200 million years old - dating back to New Zealand's Gondwana origins, a relic from a time before the dinosaurs. The young are hatched from soft-shelled eggs, after an incubation of up to a year - the longest of any reptile. Often called a 'living fossil', the tuatara has no close relations in the reptile world, and has some unusual anatomical details - including the remnants of a third eye, hidden under the skin. It takes the place in the ecosystem of mammal predators, of which there are none on these islands. If the tuatara is the reptilian equivalent of the mammal predator, the giant weta is New Zealand's equivalent of a rodent. Around the same size as a mouse, and somewhat similar in behaviour, it's the world's heaviest insect, and another ancient Gondwana throwback
One of the rarest species is the rhinoceros weta. Like the animals after which they are named they use their 'horns' to good effect to resolve disputes over partners or territory.
There are also around thirty species of giant carnivorous snail. Voracious hunters, they prey on giant earthworms, as well as on slugs and smaller snails. But, more than anything else, Aotearoa, when the Polynesians arrived, was a bird paradise. Everywhere you went the forest canopies were alive with birdsong, like a giant prehistoric aviary. Flannery: "For an Australian biologist this place is like a mirror world; I can recognise most of the trees and plants, but the animals are completely different. Some of them, like the tuatara, died out in Australia 100 million years ago, but because of New Zealand's isolation they still survive here but what makes this place really special is that this is a land of birds, and many of them are flightless." Narration: Flightlessness is a typical island adaptation that the Polynesians would have encountered right through their epic voyages across the Pacific. Up on the cool higher slopes of the mountains, the takahe feeds on tussock grass. It's large size is a positive advantage, as plant material here is difficult to digest and has relatively low food value, so the larger the herbivore, the more efficient it can be. And there's no need for speed and agility when there are no enemies on the ground to chase you. The camouflaging green-brown patch on its back, though, is a clue to where danger lurks. Falcon in air and on prey. The only endemic predators on the islands come from the sky: spectacular birds of prey, like the New Zealand Falcon. Along with the Australasian harrier, this is one of the last raptors left on New Zealand, but at the time of the arrival of the Polynesians, there were several others, including a gigantic eagle, which could easily have killed a man. Despite its camouflage, the takahe and other flightless foragers would have been easy prey for a lethal aerobatic hunter with the sharpest eyes in the business. As well as camouflaging yourself, the other way to avoid daytime aerial predators is to become nocturnal, like the national bird, the kiwi. Its exceptionally long beak has been developed to probe for insects in the soft forest leaf-fall, and to fish in the forest streams. It's the only bird in the world to have external nostrils at the end of its beak, and one of the few to have whiskers and an acute sense of smell. Even
though its egg has remained almost ostrich-sized, the kiwi itself has evolved in the opposite way to most island birds, and has shrunk its body size. After about 80 days, the slow process of hatching begins. Lack of oxygen stimulates the chick to crack the shell open but the struggle to be free is exhausting. To build up its strength, it will need to rest for up to twelve hours before finally emerging from the shell. In fact, it's not quite true to say there are no mammals at all on these islands, there are two species, and they are both bats. But in these damp and misty, predator-free forests, one species - the short-tailed bat - seems to have decided that its future lies on the ground, not in the air. Even though it originally camme to these islands on wings, this strange creature rarely uses them today while feeding. They can fly, but may well be in the process of evolving towards flightlessness, like the kiwi. But of all the flightless creatures found in this ancient land, there was one that amazed the first human arrivals: a walking giant that seemed to offer them the promise of food for life, and which they called therefore moa, meaning chicken. There were 12 species of moa, and the largest was enormous, sometimes up to three metres high. These were the endemic megafauna of Aoteorea - the dominant herbivores, filling the same ecological niche as elephants do in Africa today and they'd been around for over 70 million of years. Flannery: "There must have been thousands of birds like this before humans arrived, and we know quite a lot about them. In addition to skeletons like this we've got eggs, feathers, and even moa mummies. And the only danger these birds knew would've been from above because they were prayed on by the world's largest eagle. It had claws like a tiger and could drop on bird like this with the force of a concrete block. But pretty soon danger was to come from a completely different direction, from the people who were eventually to call themselves the Maori." Narration: When the Polynesians settled in Aoteorea, they lived first of all on the coast and
brought with them the knowledge of how to use fire to clear patches of land to grow crops. They had brought seeds, plants and tubers from the tropics, but found that only one, the kumara - or sweet potato - would survive in these cooler lands and then only on the warmer North Island. But with such a bounty from nature, these first settlers hunted and gathered, enjoying a diet of seafood and seal meat from the coast, as well as birds, plants and fruit from the forest. The first Polynesians also brought with them a deep respect for the natural world that's still alive today. All elements of nature were seen as ancestors and kin, bound by ancient ties and rules, bringing an underlying shape and harmony to the world, called 'whangapapa'. Kevin Prime Maori farmer & conservationist Prime: "Whangapapa literally translated would mean genealogy. But to Maoris it's a bit more than that because the whole ethos of Maoridom really comes from whangapapa so we believe that we have come from Eomatur, who is the supreme being, who had a number of other gods - Rangi and Papa, the sky and the earth. And they had a number of children who became all the gods of the forest. So every Maori person likes to trace their linkage back to the common ancestor and I guess that's the importance of whangapapa as a human, and also the importance of whangapapa in your relationship to other people." Narration: Deep in the forest, a ceremony that combines modern Christianity with an ancient Maori ritual. Plants and animals were thought to be relatives, with a life essentially similar to that of humans; whose existence was not seen as something separate from the natural world around them. To cut down a tree without ﬁrst paying one's respects to Tane, the spirit of the forest would therefore be intruding on one's own family, trampling disrespectfully on one's whangapapa. So the ﬁrst chip from the tree is symbolically returned to the forest, to Tane, and buried in the soil. It's a symbol of respect and renewal, of new growth, new life. The Maori believe that the gods had granted man alone the right to take birds, ﬁsh and plants for their food and other survival needs, but only as long as the proper rituals were observed. Afterwards, the carvers are free to
claim their tree, which is destined to be shaped into a ceremonial war canoe; watched over, as always, by the spirits of the forest. It was this intimacy with nature which helped the Maori to find food in the forest, especially birds. To succeed as hunters they became the ultimate bird-watchers, studying where and when different species fed and nested, and passing on that knowledge from generation to generation. But to begin with, hunting was easy, as the many species of flightless or semi-flightless birds were completely unused to predators, and had no fear of man. They were especially vulnerable to extinction, through over-hunting, as many had evolved slow reproductive cycles, some breeding just once every four years. Birds that are rare today, like the semi-flightless night parrot, the kakapo, were then abundant, and hunted for their decorative feathers as well as their meat. Common flightless birds like the weka, or ground hen, were particularly important for the Maori diet, as they provided plenty of meat in one easy catch. These, like the kiwi and others, were usually hunted with the help of dogs, which they brought with them from Polynesia. The practice is banned today in New Zealand itself, but still carried out on the nearby Chatham Islands. But as human populations increased, hunting on this scale was bound to have an impact on the flightless birds, especially the large ones, like the moa. Deep in the South Island's caves, are holes in the rock where the giant creatures fell and were unable to escape, eventually starving to death. But, crammed though they are with bones, these moa death traps never threatened the population. It was only when Man arrived on Aoteoroa that extinction beckoned. Flannery: "Some moa were among the largest birds that ever lived. And to judge from the size of this leg-bone, their drumsticks must have been enormous. And this meat was probably here for the taking for the first people who arrived in New Zealand. That's because these birds were naïve. All a hunter probably had to do was walk up to them, put a noose over their head and walk them off to the nearest ovens. And I reckon that faced with an abundance of meat like that I would have downed the gardening tools and just settled in for
a long life of feasting. Hangi feast sequence in marae. Today the traditional communal hangi, or feast, involves the slaughter of a pig, sheep or cow, but in the early days of colonisation the Polynesians would have gorged themselves on moa." Narration: The slaughter was incredibly wasteful - in some cases only the drumsticks were taken, the rest discarded; the enormous wastage of meat clear evidence that the Moa were initially abundant and easy to hunt. This abundance of meat supported huge settlements, where people lived in peace: the largest to exist in New Zealand until the arrival of the Europeans. But then, suddenly, the moa were gone. Prof. James Belich University of Auckland Belich: "There were certain areas which were prime Moa hunting areas. Partly because they had high populations, partly because they had river access in to the interior of New Zealand. What would happen is that Maori hunting parties would go in during the breeding season. And at that time, of course, the hunting could be funded by eating the eggs, which were the perfect travel food, you know, requiring little preparation, and so on. And the torpid males who tended to sit on the eggs would be relatively easy game. So, Moa populations in their peak areas are attacked at both ends, eggs and fathers. And the resulting meat is rapidly rafted down these fast-flowing rivers to a kind of meat-processing base-camp at the mouth of the rivers. So those key areas were creamed-off pretty fast. Rats" Narration: The Polynesian rat, or 'kiore', which were eaten by the Maori, had arrived with the first waka, and quickly began to plunder the smaller birds and animals.With only birds of prey to fear, and the hunting traps of the Maori, their numbers soon multiplied to plague proportions. Flannery: The Maori say they brought the Polynesian rat with them deliberately, but I'm not so sure. For back where they came from it was a serious agricultural pest, and when it arrived here, whether as stowaway or livestock, it was to become a major plague in these forests. And that's because they were so long isolated that
nothing like a rat had ever existed in them before. The arrival of the first rats here was to set off an ecological holocaust. Narration:In only 400-500 years, the bird population of Aoteorea had been decimated by the Polynesian future eaters and the rats they brought with them, and the great megafauna were extinct. With the moa gone, the Polynesians became dependent on hunting smaller birds as a major source of sustenance. In special workshops, skilled hands made traps to catch specific species. Some of these ingenious traps were self-triggering, while others, like this noose had to be manually operated. With the other flightless birds also depleted, the most important game birds now were pigeons. In the autumn and winter they gorge themselves on fruit, and are easy to catch, using nooses dipped in a trough, and baited with berries. The next most important bird for hunting purposes was the kaka, the forest parrot, which favoured the higher perches of the beech forests. They were caught using decoy birds, or by single nooses pulled tight by waiting hunters. Water fowl like the black stilt were stalked through the wetlands. While visiting migrants, like the godwit, would gather in numbers by the waters edge, where nooses and nets could be hidden, to entangle their long legs and feet. Catching these flocks of visiting birds took great skill, but their numbers were substantial, and they provided a great seasonal feast for the Maori. But soon even the great numbers of migrant waterfowl and seabirds also became part of the future eating cycle as the era of food abundance on Aotearoa started to come to an end. For the Maori were still hunter-gatherers, and consumed the supply of meat from birds faster than species like the gannet could regenerate. Despite their understanding of the need to conserve species, the Polynesian settlers steadily depleted the supply of birds, as human numbers expanded on the high protein diet. The Maori, it seems, were, as yet unable to convert their intimate knowledge of nature into principles that would help them to conserve their precious environmental resources.
Flannery: "It seems to me that there's a fundamental contradiction here for the Maori had a deep respect for plants and animals. And yet they hunted the moa and other megafauna to extinction, turning this from a land of plenty into a land of hunger. Well, I think that happened because, then, the Maori were newcomers, and they didn't fully understaand the vulnerability of life here. And It takes a long time to build the knowledge you need to manage resources effectively. Well all the while their population was building until finally their food resources were almost exhausted, and it was only then that they realised the full impact of their future eating habits." Narration: Without effective communal efforts at conservation, even the coastal protein resources were running out. This was the next stage of the future eating cycle: eliminating food resources in order of what's easiest to hunt or gather and what's most nutritious. Within minutes the pup springs into life, and is ready to take to the waters, though its mother has other ideas. Seals, sea lions and penguins were once abundant all around the coasts, but, as population pressure grew, they too all but disappeared from the more populous North Island. Seal breeding colonies are now only found on remoter parts of the South Island, and it's here that the last of the yellow-eyed penguin colonies have also survived. The yellow-eyed penguin breeds only in New Zealand and is one of 30 species once found here, in what was probably a global centre for penguin evolution. Unusually, they often prefer to nest away from the shore, and every evening they can be seen crossing the beaches and making the long trek back up the hill slopes to the sheltering forest beyond. They nest in burrows, and among the roots and caves of the tree-lined cliffs, but as the coastal forests were gradually cleared by the Maori for farms, the nest sites began to disappear. Predation from dogs and the Maori themselves accelerated the decline of the species, and today it has the dubious distinction of being the rarest penguin in the world.
For the Polynesian voyagers, the cycle of future eating that had followed them them around the Pacific had caught up with them again, even in this land of plenty. Perhaps they were deluded by the abundance of wildlife on Aotearoa, with its millions of birds, huge numbers of easily-hunted sea mammals lazing on it's shores. Whatever the reason, it appears that these expert hunters underestimated their impact on the naïve, vulnerable species of Aoteorea, and were unprepared for the food shortages that were to follow. But the evidence from Maori rubbish dumps is clear: the diet of sea mammals and sea food got smaller and smaller over time, as these coastal resources themselves were run down. With the moa gone, other birds and seal breeding colonies seriously depleted, the Maori needed to find other ways to feed themselves, if they were to survive at all in the land of the long white cloud. As hunger began to stalk the land, the Maori had no choice but to expand their farming. To open up the land to farms and bracken, whose root was eaten as a staple crop, 40% of New Zealand's native forests were burnt. In the North island, sweet potato horticulture was developed, even though the cool climate made this difficult. Elsewhere, the Maori were forced to rely on bracken root, and protein deficiency and undernourishment became widespread. Meanwhile, hunters moved further and further inland in search of elusive bird protein, often returning empty-handed. For many, this was a time of hardship and hunger, but it forced the Maori to organise in order to survive, and triggered a period of rapid cultural change and turmoil. Flannery: "By the beginning of the 16th century the Maori had begun to build great fortresses called pa, right across Aoteoroa. This one here on One Tree Hill in the middle of Auckland is enormous. Here people have sculpted a whole mountainside into a fort and there must have been thousands of warriors living on this site. Great fortresses like this suggest to me that Maori people had actually entered the next stage of future eating - and that meant war, a war over resources."
Narration:The famous 'haka' war dance became increasingly important at this time. This one is saying 'we will stand our ground'. The actual frequency of full-scale war was probably low, as this was a luxury rarely afforded in a resourcedepleted land. This was the beginning of the so-called 'Classical' period of Maori history, a time of fortress building, conflict, and even sometimes cannibalism. The hundreds of pa across the land were not only symbols of status and power, but they also had the more practical function of being fortified food stores. Prof. James Belich Auckland University Belich: "Once by whatever series of accidents, one group developed pa from peaceful villages or kianga, and the associated food storage pits, then they'd have a military advantage over other groups. They could raid and not be counterraided. So therefore an arms race or pa race suddenly begins, whereby all groups have to develop pa to protect themselves from those who have them. In addition to that, as with many changes in maori society there's this rivalry for mana amongst maori groups, which means that, you know, if you're a chief and your neighbours got a pa, then you'll have no followers. So, even within groups who never fought each other, the fact that one had a pa, and another related group didn't was a stimulus to build. So you have spasms of pa building moving through the country at quite rapid rates." Flannery: I wonder what it would have been like to have been a Maori in the 16th century, when there was far too many people and not enough food. But the whole thing about future eating is that it's a cycle, and by the beginning o the 16th century I think the Maori had really hit rock bottom. And I suppose that's when you start reflecting on where you are and the nature of the land your in, and you start adapting to it. And I think from then on we see in Maori society the first glimmerings of conservation, of conserving their resources for the future. And from then on that was to play an increasingly important role in the new societies that they were beginning to invent. Maori Chant: Pull up the root of the flax
Prof. James Belich
From whence comes its sustenance Farewell, go in peace Fly to the shoreland, fly with the tide Ask me what is the greatest thing My reply is, it is Man, it is Man, it is Man Narration: The tattoo was a mark of identity, adulthood and above all status, increasingly important in the new tribal groupings that began to develop. It was the ultimate adornment, the external expression of the spirituality within.Personal spirituality was also expressed collectively in art forms of all kinds, but notably the wood carving of the marae, the great communal meeting-houses. Society became more hierarchical and organised, as communities were forced to face up to their worsening resource crisis, triggered by the end of the great birds, the moa. Kevin Prime Maori farmer and conservationist Prime: "The Maori do not believe that they caused the extinction of the moa. But I also believe that the extinction of the moa certainly was a huge shock for all Maoridom. Because that was the one bird that could provide a feed for the whole tribe. And I think the development of a lot of the Maori conservation ethic had developed then. The ethos of conservation had developed after the demise of the moa." Narration: Conservation for the Maori involved strengthening the traditional rules that governed the harvesting of nature's resources, and enforcing them on a community-wide basis. Today's fishermen have to obey government laws that restrict where and when they can fish, and which size fish they have to throw back. So it was with the Maori of the 16th century, who had to obey the spiritual restrictions laid down by the local expert on nature, or tohunga. They knew to avoid breeding grounds, and creatures that were spawning.
These reefs are among the most productive in the world, home to a complex chain of life, the waters around them rich with fish and micro-organisms. A crayfish unleashes her spawn on the tide, as many as a million at one time. As they grow, they feed on micro-organisms and themselves become prey for larger creatures, only a few surviving to adulthood. All over the seabed, new life is being born, re-charging the chain of creation that keeps these seas alive and productive. A sting ray prepares for take-off. It's wing-like flaps lift it through the deep, in search of shellfish and crabs, one of the great sights of this underwater world. The early Maori believed that it was the special role of fish to be caught and put to use, the very reason for their existence. According to myth, Aotearoa itself had been a fish, brought up from the depths by the god, Maui, and turned into a homeland for human beings. Fish Edible species were respected, therefore, as spiritual entities, and elaborate systems were developed for their management. The groper, for example, could only be caught during a short season around sunken rocks, deep out at sea. These fishing grounds were very much prized and 'tapu', which means sacred, under restriction. Sharks, on the other hand, were regarded as warrior species, and were hunted with caution. Here, a marlin has trapped a school of mackerel, which have formed a large defensive ball that the predator finds difficult to penetrate. So the marlin is cleverly working the ball upwards towards the surface, knowing that there the ball will break, and the fish scatter, providing a bounty for all. Whales were particularly sacred and symbolised plenty, having come from the bountiful paradise homeland of Hawaiki. This is still one of the great places in the world to see whales, with several species coming here to feed, including the humpback, pilot, orca, right and sperm whales. Ambassadors from their homeland, as well as revered and distant kin, whales were at the pinnacle of a developing culture of conservation, bound up in spiritually enforced concepts like tapu and rahui.
Kevin Prime Maori farmer and conservationist Prime: "Well rahui was a sort of temporary or sometimes permanent reservation status I suppose would be the modern terminology. That sets aside certain areas to protect a species or to allow the numbers to build up. So if you..I know in our particular area there's a place where there's a rahui kiwi, and no-one was allowed to hunt kiwi in that particular area, that particular valley because it was kiwi grew well in it, there was all the bugs there, the right food for them. And they could breed well. But any kiwi that were kicked out, the young ones that ventured out of that area, the rahui area, they could be freely hunted. So, basically, rahui was a temporary restriction on certain areas, you know whether it was eels, pigeons, rats, kiwis, whatever." One contemporary example of rahui concerns the harvesting on Snares Island of sooty shearwaters, or muttonbirds. Cooked and preserved in their own fat, muttonbirds were often kept as high-protein food reserves, for when other sources of protein became scarce. Strict tribal rules govern the resource - only an agreed number of young chicks are taken during the season, the only time that the rahui is temporarily lifted. This controlled harvest leaves the adults free to breed again the next season, ensuring the sustainability of the resource, a management system ﬁrst developed in response to the food crisis of the 16th century. Prof. James Belich Auckland Unversity Belich: "There's an increased use of tapu, rahui, sacred prescriptions to prevent the taking of vulnerable resources outside these appropriate times. And there's a broadening in the net that your Maori hunter-gatherer applies to nature. So a lot of foods are processed carefully and eaten. There are many kinds of berries that take days to process. There's a lot more smaller birds become targets. Mussels, for example, freshwater mussels, there's some traditional evidence that early in pre-history they were considered a contemptible food. In late pre-history they were considered a very valuable food. So you can see the shift from a few big easy targets to many small difficult targets, and from extractive economics to sustainable economics."
Narration: The Maori had, it seemed, for the first time, confronted the resource crisis they had created and moved forward into the final phase of the future eating cycle. They had become warlike sweet potato farmers, living in large compounds with hierarchical structures, and strict rules for enforcing the conservation of nature. These systems were built on two foundations - the spiritual oneness with nature and traditional knowledge that had been handed down for generations. That knowledge can still be found today in the Maori heartlands. Eel fishing is a family business bound by ancient rahui systems and access rights that have been passed from father to son. Likewise, many still have the skills to farm and manage the forest. This Maori woman is gathering the natural dyes she needs for weaving flax; using the bark from carefully conserved trees. Plants from the forest are used by the Maori in many different ways, including paints, food and medicines. If you scratch the surface of the modern way of life, it's still possible to find the ethos of conservation. Many communities still have tohunga, for example - elders who manage the forest resources. Even today, the lessons learnt in the times of hardship survive. And who knows how successful the Maori might have been as managers of nature, if their efforts had not been suddenly forestalled. Flannery: Right through their travels across the Pacific, the Polynesian voyagers had been driven by a cycle of future eating, over exploiting natures resources and then moving on to colonize a new virginal island home. But here in New Zealand, it was different, this was really the end of the line, there were no new islands to colonize from here and here the resource crisis was extreme. The Maori were just beginning to develop ways of conserving nature, when suddenly, 200 years ago, the future of Aotearoa was taken out of their hands alone. For a new wave of invaders had appeared on the horizon. Narration: Soon the knowledge about this great, green, fertile land of mountains and forests, with whales, timber and enormous farming potential would find its way back to another seafaring nation on the other side of the world. And then
another period of colonisation would begin: the third and most damaging wave of invaders. The Maori could only watch helplessly, as the future eating cycle began all over again. Maori Chant: So many deaths, so many losses Farewell spirits, farewell all Long Hawaiki, Hawaiki far away Farewell spirits, go depart For you the dawn, the morning tide For us the evening tide, farewell. END ROLLER
© 1998, Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
Presented and Narrated by Dr Tim Flannery Author of the Future Eaters Narration: Ever since Europeans arrived in Australasia, nature, has been on the run. Red deer, are just one of thousands of introduced species that have infested New Zealand.
And every year, in Australia - the cycle of natural disasters, continues. It's as if the land, is spiralling out of control.
In Sydney harbour, tall ships gathered to celebrate the bi-centenary of the arrival of the British, in 1788. Ever since, wave after wave of migrants, from around the world - have made Australia, and New Zealand - their home. Tim Flannery Author of 'The Future Eaters' Flannery: "It's easy to imagine that us Australasians have really made a secure future for ourselves here, but ever since the time the first Europeans arrived we've altered nature so much that we've become an exterminator species the third and most damaging wave of the people I call the future eaters."
Narration: Those first settlers to land in Australia and New Zealand, saw their role as taming an alien, and sometimes hostile environment - a 'new frontier'. But there was a problem - someone had got here first - at least 40,000 years ago. The Aborigines had developed a lifestyle so specialised, so in tune with Australia's demanding conditions, that the Europeans couldn't comprehend it. Instead they convinced themselves that Australia was a terra nullius - an empty land, there for the taking.
In New Zealand, after decades of warfare and broken treaties, the Maori were finally subdued.
War and disease, so decimated the Aborigines and Maori - that it seemed they'd be part of the next wave of extinctions in Australasia. For many Europeans, it was convenient and inevitable - a process of 'natural selection'. And the lands themselves - despite their great age, they christened them the 'new lands' New Zealand, New Caledonia, New Guinea and the great island continent of New Holland, later re-named Australia. When Captain James Cook first saw this place, he described it as being like 'a gentleman's park'. For the British, Cook's description brought to mind the richest and most fertile of lands. But in this vision of an 'Arcadia', they were badly deceived.
The land supported a rich diversity of extraordinary wildlife. But in reality this diversity had evolved in one of the most nutrient-poor regions, on the planet. Only creatures and plants that were highly energy-efficient, thrived here. Far from discovering a land of plenty, the colonists had set foot on some of the poorest soils in the world - but that wasn't all. Flannery: "This land had another bitter lesson in stall for those who misunderstood it. As the explorers pushed inland they expected to find a living river system, an Amazon or a Mississippi but instead this is what they discovered a great river system indeed but one that only flowed once or twice a decade". When it rains, water from distant storms flows down the dry creeks -releasing precious nutrients stored in their beds. It can quickly become a flood - carrying massive volumes of water across the continent. . This is a time of plenty - a trigger for new life. Native fish, that have been trapped in the billabongs, can now travel to their breeding grounds. Birds, like cormorants, gorge themselves in the rich waters. Even the infertile soil, blooms with such an abundance of life - that the land can appear as rich as that of Europe But drought, has always followed. The native animals have evolved to survive with it - but it brought disaster to the 'new' arrivals. Flannery: "The people that sat around this fire place dreamed of establishing a pastoral empire here at old Kanyaka. In the 19th century the son of an English aristocrat came out to this country during a good year and decided to sink the family fortune into the place. Pretty soon he'd built this village with 70 people living in it, but then in 1864 the inevitable drought hit and he had to walk away, he had to abandon his newly built English manor house, leaving the family dreams and their fortune in ruins"
Narration: Despite disasters like this, each good season saw more and more farmers move onto the land. Government policy actually forced them to carry at least 4 times the density of sheep, as today. The result was wholesale massacre of the native pastures - by hoof and jaw. When the next drought came it brought catastrophe. Erosion In this very spot in the Flinders Ranges, 40,000 sheep died in just one season. Craig Nixon Flinders Ranges National Park. Nixon: "Those sheep didn't die of thirst they died of starvation, so basically they ate everything that was here er completely and utterly gone, er their hooves sort of pounded this soil into a powder er the first rains that came along and washed it all away, as a result we've got this gully erosion. Now that may have been ok, er the country may have survived with that given some more good years but hot on the heels of that 1880 drought came the rabbits."
It was bad enough that the new invaders overstocked the land - but they even brought their own pests with them.
Rabbits, foxes, and a whole menagerie of other European creatures.There were only two native predators, capable of holding back these introduced pests.
The wedge-tailed eagle, is a lethal hunter - it's one of the worlds largest raptors.
The other natural defender, was the dingo - it can even kill foxes and cats. But their European traditions taught the farmers that these natural predators, were in fact, the pests. They were systematically wiped out by bounty hunters. Now, introduced species like the fox, rabbit and feral cat could spread unchallenged across the continent, in plague proportions - triggering a hundred years of ecological turmoil. People herding rabbits in fence Narration: Across the Tasman Sea in New Zealand, the colonists were repeating the same mistakes made in Australia - with devastating consequences for wildlife. These fertile, temperate islands were more familiar to the Europeans than the unpredictable dry lands of Australia. Track across misty forest When the settlers first arrived, 60% was still ancient forests of kauri, beech, and podocarp - all of them singing with life - for this was a land of birds. On the forest floor they found unique creatures, like the tuatara - a 200 million year old throwback to the prehistoric continent of Gondwana.
And the mouse-sized giant weta, the largest cricket in the world.
Despite being hunted by the Maori, many flightless birds like the takahe, still survived. With no ground-based, mammal carnivorous, life for this army of flightless foragers had been relatively easy. But not even the national bird, the kiwi, was safe from the impact of the latest human arrivals. Flannery: "New Zealand's wildlife had evolved in isolation for something like 70 million years, and that meant that it was superbly adapted to the special conditions of New Zealand. But it came at
a great cost for that same isolation meant that New plants and animals were extremely vulnerable to change" Narration: As in Australia, the first settlers cleared the forests - triggering a cascade of environmental change. On steeper slopes, the clearing and burning often led to erosion, and there was inevitable species loss. Sheep on hilltop But the sheep and cattle flourished - generating one of the highest standards of living in the world. Flush with the wealth from exports of meat and wool, the colonists set about building another England. Horses and hounds hunt Recreational activities were imported from the 'old country'. But there was a severe shortage of creatures to hunt. So a huge variety of alien species was brought in, and set free. Rabbits proved to be the same ecological disaster, they were in Australia. Here too they quickly reached plague proportions. In an attempt to control them, carnivorous mammals were introduced. But the hundreds of ferrets, stoats and weasels, found it easier to hunt the native birds, especially the flightless ones which were much less elusive than the fleetfooted rabbit.
As these mammal predators multiplied, their impact on the native birds became catastrophic. And soon another, even larger carnivore was to stalk the woods.
Thousands of feral cats, descendants of those first brought in as pets, went wild, and began to prey on the bird life of the islands, already under siege from rats, and other predators.
Not even the mountain grasslands and forests were safe from the new invaders. Red deer Red deer, brought in to be hunted, quickly multiplied becoming a national pest. As well as overgrazing grasslands, they gorged themselves on the new growth in the native forests - turning the forest floor into a wasteland. The only part of the native vegetation that seemed to be safe from the invasion, was the higher canopy of the forests. It's up here that many of the native birds feed and nest. They also play a vital role in regenerating the forest. By eating the fruit and nectar they pollinate plants and distribute seeds in their droppings. But by the 1930s it was noticed that the dense, green canopies of the native forests were changing colour, and dying. The culprit was yet another introduced creature the Australian brush-tailed possum. This leaf-eating marsupial had been imported to establish a fur industry. No-one imagined then, that it might threaten the very forests of New Zealand - or that it could be responsible for the disappearance of many native birds, like the kokako. After decades, infra-red cameras finally confirmed people's worst fears the supposedly vegetarian possum, had been preying on the eggs and chicks of native birds, all along. Soon the situation for the nation's forests and birds, was critical. There were estimated to be around 70 million possums on the loose, devouring the equivalent of 140,000 football fields of native forest every day. Flannery: "If I could have walked here 200 years ago, I would have seen a forest that was alive with the calls of thousands of birds. But ever since the Europeans have arrived this forest has been slowly silenced and most of the birds that lived here are now extinct. All of those pollinators of plants, dispersers of seeds and eaters of insect pests are gone. It's as if the fabric of the entire ecosystem has just been torn apart."
Narration: Australia's forests and grasslands were suffering from a different problem. The Aboriginal system of managing the land through fire had gone - the Europeans had put an end to it. This firestick farming, had played an important role, in sustaining the medium sized marsupials. The rufus hare wallaby, is rarely sighted today yet, just a century ago, it was one of Australia's most common animals. Brush tailed bettong The brush tailed bettong, was also widespread throughout the country. And the bilby, would have been familiar, to all the Aboriginal people of inland Australia. But now, all these animals, are teetering on the brink of extinction. The demise of the marsupials has been silent and almost invisible. The only people who witnessed the process are the desert Aborigines. And it happened, so recently - that elders like Nugget Dawson still remember hunting and eating these animals. Nugget Dawson Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park Nugget Dawson:"This is wayuta (possum) it runs around the treetops and calls out. It used to live all over here.We were so familiar with these animals once, when we were children, and when those that have passed away were alive, we knew them all." Narration: Nugget lives near Uluru, a place where Aborigines have been given title to their land. It's one of the few areas where traditional land management has been re-introduced - using firestick farming. Nugget Dawson:"By burning we generate fresh new growth,which is good feed for the kangaroo and all these animals who loved to eat fresh green growth and fresh green grass. But because there isn't much burning any more they've all died out and all we get are these stuffed skins. What are we to do?" It's out here, in the arid zone, that the loss has been highest. Scientists from South Australia are conducting a fauna survey, to discover the extent of the
damage - and to see if the few survivors are still breeding. They're working together with the Anangu Pitjantjara people, custodians of this land. Frank: "We can see only one place now, where there's only few rock wallabies are now. " Peter Copley Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources Peter Copley: "There's one colony just in this area here and there's one other colony about 40 kilometre to the west here and that's all we've been able to find in the last 5 or 6 years working with Anangu." Flannery: "Well this is a beautiful little Waru, this rock wallaby is an endangered species today, yet when these fellas were young they were everywhere through this country, there's so many species of our marsupials that have suffered the same fate, 23 of them are extinct and this really is the last survivor among the middle size mammals in the whole of this region." Narration: An important part of the study, is to document the knowledge of the traditional owners of the land - and to forge a partnership that will help to sustain the remaining wildlife. The invaluable knowledge of the elders is being recorded, and shared - with the wider world. Peter Copley Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources Copley: "People have come away from a lot of their country and spent much more time away from it, as a consequence they haven't been doing hunting over as broader area of the country, haven't been using fire for a range of purposes and because of that the vegetation has got older post fire and then lightning strikes have taken out much, much broader areas of country than used to occur when traditional owners were on their country and burning in patches to provide a range of habitats for a big range of animals." Flannery: "The kind of knowledge that's being shared here is extraordinarily complex and
Tim Flannery and a Rock Wallaby
detailed and it's been built up over generations by these Aboriginal people, I guess it's the only way they've been able to survive in this extraordinarily harsh land, and we're in the middle of that process now, us Europeans are trying to adapt to this same kind of country for the long term, and the knowledge that's being shared there is probably our best guide as to how we can do that. After all these people are the only people who have ever lived here in the long term." Narration: In New Zealand, the extinction crisis has gone much further than in Australia. By the 1970's it was realised that the nation was perilously close to losing, almost everything. Among many others on the brink of extinction, was the flightless night parrot - the Kakapo. Living in burrows had made it particularly vulnerable to feral predators. Only 57 survive and most of them are male. Just one new female has been found in the last twenty years. Kakapo on nest at night The last male kakapo boom forlornly, all night, and every night, in a vain attempt to attract a mate, that will almost certainly never come. It was vital to save not just the kakapo, but all the other remnant populations of native creatures that were left. In many cases, they'd only survived on tiny offshore islands - protected from feral predators, by the ocean. These islands were of enormous ecological importance - they were to become life boats for New Zealands wildlife. Alycia Warren Department of Conservation N.Z. Warren: "We noticed that there were islands that had species remaining on them that were now no longer found on the mainland. But often one island just had one species on it. And by removing feral animals from islands we were able to bring a lot of extra species to them. So now we have quite a few islands that are lifeboats for animals that are native to New Zealand."
Narration: Over the last decade, the entire known population of Kakapo has been moved to island lifeboats. It's hoped that here, in the absence of predators, the last of the night parrots will breed successfully. But not all of the 700 offshore islands, were safe the rat had already reached many of them, posing a severe threat. Systematic poisoning campaigns were waged and New Zealand quickly became a world leader, in controlling feral pests. Something like 70 islands have now been cleared of these introduced mammals - paving the way for more and more ambitious species recovery programmes. Flannery: "It's pretty clear that New Zealand will never be able to get rid of all its introduced predators, but maybe they can be controlled, especially here on the offshore island lifeboats, where some native species are down to just a handful of individuals , and they may be coming back from the brink, and if that's so it'll be an amazing conservation achievement." Narration: The next stage of the 'lifeboats' programme, is to see whether principles developed on islands, can be used on the mainland. Rotoiti National Park, in the mountains of the South Island, is home to another endangered parrot - the kaka. Rotoiti was one of the first mainland 'life boats' to be established. David Butler Department of Conservation N.Z. Butler: "This looks like an intact forest, we're in the national park here. And the key problems are the introduced pests found in these forests. So that's a wide range of mammals, both predators and herbivores, so we've got possums, rats, mice, stoats, probably a few feral cats. And then we've got pests people really aren't thinking of as pests, the wasp. We have large densities of common wasps in these forests and you'll see the honeydew that's on the bark of a number of the trees here, that provides a very high energy resource that allows wasps to build up large numbers in the summer."
Narration: Honeydew is a high-protein, sap-like liquid, exuded by an insect hidden inside the bark of trees. It's a vitally important food - there's hardly a creature in the forest that doesn't depend on this energy source to some extent. But 10 years ago, this vital life support system was disrupted, when another invader from Europe arrive here - the common wasp. With no natural enemies, it was able to breed at will - filling the forests with it's constant buzzing.It also preyed in swarms, on the insects - another vital source of food for birds. In 1995 it was realised that the breeding cycle of the kaka, had been disrupted. The wasps, were thought to be partly to blame. A wasp eradication programme began, using baits of poison cat food. Soon the baiting will be tried on a forest-wide basis. But the other reason for the kakas decline, was the large number of mammal predators in the forest. Alan Saunders Department of Conservation N.Z. Sanders: "Unlike true islands, these pest mammals can re-invade mainland islands easily. So really the big challenge at mainland island sites is to control that re-invasion rate of things like possums and rats and cats and stoats. And that's really the big challenge which we've yet to get fully under control." Narration: The impact of feral predators was poignantly demonstrated, when the kaka finally began to breed again.One pair of birds did commence mating - an old male had been joined in the forest by a young female. Two chicks were born to the pair, and monitoring of the nest site began. But sadly, it soon became apparent why the numbers of females had declined.
Before the chicks had fledged, the young kaka hen disappeared, and was tracked by radio to an old log. The guilty party was almost certainly a stoat. Hens on their nests are sitting targets, it explained the drastic decline in the numbers of female birds. This year, close to Rotoiti Lake, the kaka have been breeding again, and now the nests have been protected on a forest-wide basis. Ron Moorhouse Department of Conservation N.Z. Moorhouse: "Yeah, so Tim, this is one of our protected trees here. You see the sheet of aluminium round the base, which is designed to prevent stoats climbing the tree. And the entrances up top and below that you can see a small patch of aluminium. That's where I've actually cut a hole to get access to the chicks." Narration: Conservation field officers make regular checks on the nest sites - to ensure the chicks are being properly nurtured. It's a delicate operation, needing skilled hands. Alan Saunders Department of Conservation N.Z. Saunders: "What we've focussed on really in mainland island sites recently have been different suites of introduced mammals and so right here it's really those mammals, plus the wasps which are our focus. If we can control, effectively control those we'll really be starting to talk about real ecosystem restoration, at the mainland." Ron Moorhouse Department of Conservation N.Z. Moorhouse: To some degree we have to put the chicks in perspective a bit. A really important thing is that the female birds haven't been preyed on. They can always make more chicks, but if you lose those female birds you can't replace them. With many of our species extinction can be quite an insidious almost a surreptitious sort of thing. The animals are long-lived so they actually survive a long time so you get the impression that they're still around. And it's often maybe just a specific sex or age that's vulnerable to predation. So in the case of kaka it seems to be primarily female birds and the young that are vulnerable to
perdition. So you can get the impression there's still a lot of kaka there, but actually that may be a heavily male-biased sex-ratio. Flannery: What a bird, wow. Flannery: "It's only recently that people have started to value New Zealands unique ecosystems. But the challenge to hang onto what's left is enormous. You just can't undo 800 years ecological damage in a decade, or even a century. But to make matters worse, the cascade of changes flowing through this forest now are so profound, they just have to result in many, many extinctions." Narration: The battle to maintain New Zealands bio-diversity has only just begun.As the people of New Zealand fight to turn the extinction tide, Australians are still struggling to come to terms with the ecological damage, caused by previous generations. Australia environmental crisis isn't just about disappearing wildlife - but the degradation of the land itself. And it's all because we, the third wave of future eaters, misunderstood this country from the very beginning. The mistakes continued well into the 20th century. The scramble for wealth drove agriculture ever onwards - into the more and more marginal land. This wasn't really farming in the sustainable sense, it was more like mining the soil. The few nutrients that had sustained this ecosystem for thousands of years, were used up by just a few crops of wheat - and then the land was ruined. Our rivers too came under attack. When it began in 1949, the Snowy Mountains Scheme was one of the engineering wonders of the world. Australia was driven by a vision of becoming another America, a nation of hundreds of millions - feeding the world. Controlling the unpredictable cycle of drought and flood, was thought to be the key. Today so much of the Murray river's water is used for irrigation, that only a third of it's flow ever reaches the sea.
The Murray Darling system was the life line for over 30,000 wetland areas, that depended upon it's cycle of drought and flood. The rivers waters were once rich in native fish - but today the Murray cod, Australia's largest fresh water species, is already extinct in large tracts of the river. Dead gum trees and carp The wetlands ecosystems are dying - from either being permanently dry or constantly full of water, that drowns the majestic river red gums. The powerful technology of the third wave of future eaters did eventually make the land yield. And Australians won a lucrative bounty from wool and wheat. But the cost has been enormous. Once the native trees were cleared the water table rose, bringing salt to the surface - rendering the land useless. And every time the drought returns, more and more of the precious topsoil is blown off the land. Millions of tons are lost to erosion every year. In 1983, a dust storm enveloped Melbourne, plunging the city into twilight. In just one afternoon Australia lost 4 million dollars in nutrients alone blown away forever across the Tasman Sea. The same winds that blow away the soil, fan the bushfires that rage on edge of our cities - plunging whole communities into crisis. And these bushfires too are a man made catastrophe - the legacy of leaving the land unmanaged by the Aborigines - for the firestick was extinguished here over 200 years ago. Flannery: "It looks to me like we're not in control here, in fact us Europeans never have been, because we still haven't learnt how to live with this country, we've tried to transplant a foreign heart into a different body and we're seeing all the signs of a massive rejection, and if we keep on trying to treat our country like this and keep on trying to ride it so hard we're going to kill it and that's what I mean by future eating. " Narration: So far we've been making a living at the country's expense. But it doesn't have to be like this. Branding Cattle Now one in every 3 farmers, 24,000 of them belong to Landcare, they're committed to making a living here sustainably.
They're doing it by observing their country carefully - studying the fine detail of how it works. Out here, on the edge of the Simpson desert - hard experience has taught graziers not to be greedy - to move their cattle on at the ﬁrst sign of pasture degradation - for it's all too easy to overstock this land. The artesian water here comes to the surface under great pressure. At Dalkanina Station, Daryl Bell is actually using the water to minimise the impact of his cattle on the land.He pipes the underground water to storage tanks, placed in areas of good growth. The water keeps the cattle in an area that can sustain them. At the first sign their food is being depleted - another tank is activated - and the cattle moved on - leaving the land to recover. Daryl Bell Dulkanina Station, South Australia Bell: "I think one of our major secrets in the whole lot is the invention of poly pipe and polythene tanks and fibre glass tanks you can move stock on little lots of water and they can sustain there for a long, long time left alone. It's all the more remarkable because he's doing it in one of the driest places on earth that supports a pastoral industry." Flannery: "I guess you must get a lot of people who come out here and look at this country and say gee it looks pretty hard I don't know how you do it. " Bell: "Yes well I suppose well we are on the edge of a desert but er it's er very robust but at the same time very fragile, but it's more robust than a lot of people give it credit for, but you gotta be kind to it and it'll be kind to you, but you abuse it, it'll break ya. " Narration: Much of Australia is rangelands, unsuitable for growing crops, but ideal for meat production. Kangaroos and emus are the only large land animals that are perfectly adapted to this country. Both have the potential to be harvested sustainably and profitably over vast areas of the continent - and they taste good too.
Flannery: "It's cost our environment nothing to produce this kangaroo steak, but the cost of making this loaf of bread has been enormous.. We loose 7 kilograms of irreplaceable soil for every kilogram of wheat we grow here, and it's no exaggeration to say that what we eat today will shape our country's future. We can either continue to eat at our country's expense or we can find ways to feed ourselves that's in tune with it's nature." Narration: The salt-water crocodile has been here for at least 4 million years. Now in the Northern Territory, people are beginning to raise crocodiles for meat and skins - turning the tables from crocodiles eating us - to us eating them. As Graham Webb argues, there's both a conservation and economic logic to farming and eating these creatures. Graham Webb Crocodylus Park, Darwin Webb: "It's just very simple, any animal or plant you want to look at. If it has a high value, either for skin, meat, or just because it's beautiful, people will look after it. If it has a low or a negative value, if it's eating your cattle or eating your sheep or something like that, then you pay money to get rid of it. If it has no tangible value then it's very easily replaced. And that's the problem with wildlife conservation on a global scale. People are frightened to put a value on. But if it doesn't have a value it's going to be replaced. " Narration: It's not just our wildlife that needs to be valued - water is the other great natural resource that we've been literally giving away. It's been squandered to create enormous wealth for few and until we put a true economic value on water, it will never be managed sustainably. More than anything else, our future lies in how we manage this land. Kakadu National Park is one of Australia's premier world heritage areas. It's complex ecology of wetlands, rainforest and grasslands, has been managed by the Aborigines alone - for the last 40,000 years.
Greg Miles Kakadu National Park Miles: "Aboriginal people have been burning this place for more generations than you can count. In fact much of what you see around in terms of the vegetation and the landscape has been sculpted by fire. It's a product of fire and it's necessary for us in partnership with the Aboriginal people to maintain that to maintain the status quo because if we don't, if we become shy of fire, the way people perhaps are in southern Australia we're going to have a pyrotechnic anarchy develop in this country which would probably result in really severe late season hot fires in the late dry season which are very destructive. " Aborigine starts fire Narration: Despite all that's happened to them, Aboriginal knowledge of how to manage this land with fire, has survived. Now it's being applied, using modern technology. The traditional rubbing together of sticks, has been replaced by incendiary capsules - thrown from the air. The idea is to burn on a controlled, but widespread basis, in order to prevent destructive hot bushfires triggered by lightning in the dry season - the firestick has been revived, on a grand scale. Miles: "What we do is use technology to mimic what they used to do. So with the aid of satellite imagery, helicopters, incendiary capsules and a whole range of other things, quad motorbikes you name it. We use all these high tech methods to achieve the same result that Aboriginal people got by doing it with banksia cones and walking on foot maybe fifty or hundred years ago right back into the far distant past. " Narration: One thing is certain though, neither Australia nor New Zealand can build a sustainable future, without the support of their people. A trip to one of the latest of New Zealands island lifeboats, shows just how far the public is behind this national conservation programme. Just a few kilometres offshore from Auckland, lies the island of Tiritiri Matanga. It looks green now, but ten years ago it was barren, overgrazed pastureland, given over to goats. Today, the island is almost entirely covered in forest again, and is being used as a lifeboat sanctuary for rare birds like the flightless takahe. The transformation has been
achieved mostly by volunteers - over a hundred or so of whom appear every weekend, joined by boatloads of children in their holidays. Over a hundred thousand native trees have already been planted. If real results are to be achieved, and wastelands turned back into forest again, the wholesale support of communities is essential, on both a national and a local scale. Eventually the new forest will grow to resemble this, the last relic of pristine forest left on the island - its canopy alive once again with the sound of native birds. Flannery: "Well what an incredibly beautiful place, you can just hear the health of the ecosystem in all these birds that are mostly gone from New Zealand forests, and just 10 years ago most of this island was just pasture. I'm just amazed what people can do when the whole community works together pretty single mindedly to restore something like this." Narration: In reality, it's all too easy for urban people, to forget about environmental problems like species loss, and the degradation of soil and water.But, it's the cities where most people live and ultimately they will decide the future of this land. Urban people especially need to assess their life styles - and decide what kind of consumption levels are sustainable in these lands. What level of population can be supported, and how much of our unique natural heritage can be retained. Each wave of human invaders into this region has changed its very nature, but eventually they've learnt to live sustainably in these fragile lands. Except that is - for us, the third and final wave of the future eaters. Flannery: "My people came ashore at this place just over 200 years ago, and ever since then they have been acting as if they never left Europe. Well the time has come now for us to become real Australasians, to learn to respect the uniqueness of these most fragile of lands and to live within their limits, and to let their rhythms, their richness and grandeur sit easily in our spirits."
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