New Zealand: 56 native bird species are now extinct

Land animals around the world have suffered high rates of extinction following human settlement, with a study published on Friday showing almost one-third of New Zealand’s native birds have gone extinct.

An updated estimate has found that 56 native bird species are now extinct out of a total of 171 that were considered breeding at the time of initial human settlement in New Zealand. This estimate includes the Chatham Islands and offshore islands, a study in the New Zealand Journal of Ecology showed.

On a regional level, results showed that extinction rates vary from 50 percent species extinction on the North Island to just 14.5 percent on offshore islands where human activities are few.

As a whole, the New Zealand mainland and its offshore islands lost 30.9 percent of bird species, although this rate increases to 32.8 percent with the inclusion of the distinct Chatham Islands avifauna, according to the study.

Post-settlement faunal extinction rates are widely cited statistics and help to understand the magnitude of recent biodiversity loss driven by human activity, said the study’s lead author Jamie Wood from the University of Adelaide.

Extinction rate estimates can vary greatly depending on factors such as the geographic boundaries of the region being considered, how the faunal group is defined, completeness of fossil records, and taxonomic frameworks, Wood said.

The study was an updated estimate of post-settlement extinction rates for the New Zealand avifauna, based on a combination of recently described extinct bird species with the latest taxonomic revisions and well-defined geographic regions, he said.

BATS

Back in September, new research confirmed what has long been suspected – feral and domestic cats are repeatedly hunting and eating the country’s native bats.

Researchers report an observation where seven of these critically-endangered bats, or pekapeka-tou-roa in Maori, were killed or injured by cats in a rural landscape over two years.

Bats are the only land mammal native to New Zealand. According to a research paper published in the New Zealand Journal of Zoology on Wednesday, there is little data available about confirmed attacks in New Zealand, but in Britain, cats are thought to kill as many as 250,000 bats annually, so the researchers suggest the full impact in New Zealand is “substantial.”

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