This large picture book is a great introduction to New Zealand’s wildlife, which could keep children happily occupied for hours perusing the many illustrations and reading the captions.
Gavin Bishop has done his research for this book, and with his quirky sense of humour, he makes learning about New Zealand’s amazing array of wildlife fun.
Wildlife of Aotearoa is not an encyclopaedia. To have included every creature in New Zealand would have been an impossible task. For example, there are 170 species of native earthworms
But he has created a huge number of beautifully coloured illustrations of different kinds of wildlife. Each is labelled with their name in both Maori and English and a sentence or two about aspects of their appearance/ feeding habits/ habitat etc.
Wildlife of Aotearoa starts in Tangaroa’s watery world, the vast Pacific Ocean which surrounds us and is home to 1400 species of fish. Gavin has drawn fish and whales as big as a bus, fish who enjoy the light of the sun, and others who prefer the dark and quiet of deep water. Because of all these fish, Aotearoa is the seabird capital of the world.
The wildlife journey continues through many different habitats, including tidal flats, estuaries, wetlands, rivers, and forests.
Even wildlife in the house isn’t forgotten. Fleas, cockroaches, spiders, headlice, mice and rats are all there. And dust mites (invisible to the naked eye) who like to eat skin cells shed by humans and live in our beds, a revolting thought!
Henry the Tuatara, a long-time resident of the Southland museum who became a father for the first time at 111 years old, and the Prime Minister’s cat Paddles are on an Honours Board in memory of some of the greats in New Zealand wildlife. Gavin put his beloved pet sheep up there as well.
Statistics are provided of the great harm that has been and continues to be done to our wildlife by humans, by the predators they introduced and how global warming is making an impact.
Long before waka touched Aotearoa’s shores, the land of the long white cloud was home to an array of creatures uniquely adapted to its environments and protected by its isolation. Encounter New Zealand’s incredible wildlife in this spectacular visual exploration. Journey through ocean, sky and land to meet a marvellous range of organisms. Discover fascinating facts, and learn how we influence the survival of our living treasures.
Gavin also describes some of our conservation efforts. We have over 40 marine reserves now as well as predator-free islands where some of our most endangered birds and other wildlife like tuatara and wetapunga are protected and able to live and breed safely.
I have just one tiny quibble. Gavin does not mention that New Zealand’s mission is to be Predator Free by 2050. Not only the government but many people in our local communities are working hard to achieve this, for instance, by setting traplines. It would have been good if Gavin had also recognised their efforts.
I think it is a wonderful reference book for families to share together and to learn more about the great variety of wildlife which lives in New Zealand.
Wildlife of Aotearoa is by Gavin Bishop. Imprint: Puffin, RRP $40
Reviews by Lyn Potter
Parent and grandparent, Avid traveler, writer & passionate home cook