To celebrate NZ's unique natural taonga, Peter Hayden has curated a highlights collection from three decades of NHNZ productions. Aotearoa's landforms and its magnificent menagerie of natural oddities - birds, insects, trees like nowhere else on the planet - are showcased in 15 award-winning titles. From Discovery Channel and David Bellamy, to Wild South and Our World classics.
Predators (possums, rats, rabbits, deer) may have forced many of Moa's Ark's cargo to abandon ship and to live on off-shore island lifeboats, but in visiting them (and recently-established mainland 'islands'), Bellamy tells some of the most dramatic conservation stories in the world. He gives dues to Don Merton’s pioneering leadership in clip four. Includes footage of kokako and its haunting song, cheeky kaka parrots, tieke (saddleback), hoiho (yellow-eyed penguin), black robin, fierce-looking giant weta, and the Castle Hill buttercup (the world's rarest).
By 1976 there were only seven Chatham Islands' black robins left. It was the world's rarest bird. In a bid to save the species, the surviving birds are taken from one island to another more hospitable island in a desperate rescue mission. This is part of an incredible conservation success story led by Don Merton and a NZ Wildlife Service team. Along with Black Robin, and The Robin's Return this documentary was one of the acclaimed Wild South series of 'rare bird' documentaries, upon which the formation of TVNZ's Natural History Unit was based.
In the mid 1970s the Chatham Island black robin was the world's rarest bird. With only two females left, the ante for a conservation rescue story would be hard to up. Enter saviour Don Merton and his Wildlife Service team. Their pioneering efforts included abseiling the precious birds down cliff faces, and left-field libido spurs for the talismanic 'Eve' of her species: Old Blue. This classic Wild South edition united three award-winning films that were foundational for the Natural History Unit (now NHNZ): Seven Black Robins, The Robin's Return, and Black Robin.
This documentary tells the tenuous survivor story of the kākāpō: the nocturnal flightless green parrot with "big sideburns and Victorian gentlemen's face" (as comedian Stephen Fry put it). A sole breeding population for the evolutionary oddity (the world's largest parrot; it can live up to 120 years) is marooned on remote Codfish Island. The award-winning film had rare access to the recovery programme and its dramatic challenges. This excerpt sees a rugged journey to the island to search for a kākāpō named 'Bill', and witnesses the "bizarre ballad" of its mating boom.
This wee gem from the 60s Sunday night magazine show records a pivotal New Zealand conservation moment. Wildlife Service ranger Don Merton experiments with rescue techniques to save the endangered North Island saddleback (tieke), a wattlebird surviving on Hen Island. Aided by electronics expert John Kendrick (of National Radio bird call fame) he uses calls to lure the spry birds into mist nets before moving the precious cargo to cat-free Cuvier Island. The world-leading skills developed here were to be crucial in saving the black robin and kakapo from extinction.
For over 25 years Rod Morris worked with TVNZ’s Natural History Unit and its successor NHNZ, documenting the wildlife of New Zealand. His passion for the natural world lead to his involvement in award-winning documentary series The Black Robin, and Wild South, as well as numerous one-off documentaries including The Devil’s Playground, Wild Asia, Ghosts of Gondwana and Dragons of Komodo. Since leaving NHNZ, Morris has worked on many wildlife books.