Jack Tame: Extinction report suggests moa footprints are just the beginning

Author
Jack Tame,
Section
Opinion,
Publish Date
Saturday, 11 May 2019, 11:14AM
Moa footprints were removed earlier this week - the same week a report on extinction was released. (Photo / Otago Daily Times)

They began early in the morning, gathering in the Autumn light in a muddy creek, a group of high vis vests, splashing in the water.

Pretty early they had the pump going, chugging and sluttering as it worked against the tide.

It was a great day to be on Twitter, watching every update.

Could I honestly have told you before yesterday that Moa footprints had never before been found in the South Island? No. But something about them - their size, their shape - felt so dinosaury. Moa prints, cut into the rock, millions of years old, and yet as if drawn by children in a kindergarten activity group.

Isn’t it amazing to think of moa crashing around New Zealand? As a boy, I used to love going to the Canterbury museum and looking at the mocked up exhibits of moa being hunted.

Scientists reckon they were more than three and a half metres tall in some instances. Just think about that. Three and a half metres! If you tilted my car on its nose and balanced it in the air it would be about the same height. It’s crazy.

Moa didn’t last long once people arrived in New Zealand. They were hunted by Māori and they had no defence. A couple of hundred years after the first New Zealanders arrived in Aotearoa, the moa was extinct.

In some ways it was a sorry little juxtaposition that moa footprints, evidence of something so magical, should be excavated in the same week as a devastating report on the state of our ecology.

The U.N reckons a million species are threatened with extinction, and that nature is declining at rates unprecedented in human history. Environmental destruction, consumption, and climate change, have put the World in a more perilous position than any time in the history of our species.

A few hundred more years, and museums will be excavating more than just moa prints. 

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