“What Happened to the Moa” by Ned Barraud, published Potton and Burton, Price $29.99 hardback, $19.99 paperback. Reviewed by Tony Orman
For 50 million years, several species of moa browsed the natural grasslands, scrub and forest of New Zealand, not unlike as deer and other wild animals do today.
Forest and Bird Society and some in government departments have constantly maintained over decades that New Zealand’s vegetation evolved in the absence of browsing. But others including scientists have maintained vegetation evolved in the presence of avian browsing of the bush and grasses and that deer and other wild animals have generally filled the niche in the ecosystem, once filled by moas and other birds over millions of years.
New Zealand’s now extinct flightless bird, the moa was a fascinating ecological saga and author and artist Nick Barraud has done an excellent job in telling and illustrating the details for younger readers. Importantly the book is not tainted by Forest and Bird and DOC dogma. It presents an impartial, accurate portrayal for younger readers.
This is an ideal book to slip into the Christmas stocking of a child or for birthday or just a present with high educational value.
Having said that adults should give it a read too for Nick Barraud reveals intriguing facts such as there were probably nine moa sub-species browsing lowland grasslands, the forest and scrub habitats and even the snow grass tops, each occupying an ecological niche and browsing vegetation. The nine species varied from 3.6 metres tall down to the size of a turkey.
The predator of moa, the Haast Eagle, a giant of its species, adds to the astonishing story while the fact that the moa was eradicated by the Maori migrants in a geological ‘blink of the eye’ is amazing too.
A top book for youngsters – and well worth a look by adults.