Kākāpō - Night Parrot

Television, 1982 (Full Length)

Flightless and nocturnal, the kākāpō is the world's heaviest parrot. By the 1970s the mysterious, moss-coloured bird was facing extinction, "evicted" to Fiordland mountains and Stewart Island by stoats and cats. Thanks to innovative night vision equipment, this film captured for the first time the bird's idiosyncratic courtship rituals, and the first chick found in a century. Marking the directing debut of NHNZ veteran Rod Morris, it screened in the Feltex Award-winning second season of Wild South, and won acclaim at the 1984 International Wildlife Film Festival.

The Unnatural History of the Kākāpō

Film, 2009 (Excerpts)

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.

Collection

The Nature Collection

Curated by Peter Hayden

Packed with creatures and landscapes that quite simply boggle the mind, the Nature Collection showcases New Zealand's impressive menagerie of nature and wildlife films. Many of the titles were made by powerhouse company NHNZ, which began around 1977 as the Natural History Unit, a small, southern outpost of state television. In this backgrounder, Peter Hayden — who had a hand in more than a few of these classic films — guides viewers through just what the Nature Collection has to offer.

Primeval New Zealand

Television, 2012 (Full Length)

This award-winning documentary from NHNZ reveals new information about the origins of the iconic kiwi. Presenter Peter Elliott travels the country investigating how "evolutionary mutants" — like giant meat-eating snails, kiwi, and tuatara — evolved over 20 million years in the face of massive tectonic upheavals and extreme isolation.  Elliott answers why Aotearoa has the "weirdest creatures", such as birds that don't fly and mammals that do. Company Weta Workshop used computer graphics to create images of extinct creatures for this TV One documentary.  

Moa's Ark : Invaders of the Last Ark

Television, 1990 (Full Length)

For 80 million years, Moa's Ark was mammal free. Then, in the last 1000 years, humans arrived from Polynesia and Europe, and as presenter David Bellamy discovers, changed these islands at a rate unparalleled in the peopling of this planet. Bellamy channels Indiana Jones and hangs from old man's beard vines to assess the impact. The episode features footage of a beautiful dawn chorus, of the kiwi and the nocturnal kakapo (the world's largest, rarest parrot), cave drawings of the moa-hunters, plus Māori harakeke weaving and a hangi with Tipene O'Regan.

Meet the Locals: Conservation Week Special

Television, 2009 (Full Length Episode)

The world's rarest parrot and immigrant desert "pests" feature in this Meet The Locals Conservation Week special. Presenter Nicola Toki (née Vallance) travels to Invercargill to visit rescued kākāpō chicks, before disinfecting her clothes so she can return the birds to their pest-free home on Codfish Island. Heading north, she takes to the skies to help herd Kaimanawa wild horses, which are wreaking havoc on rare plants, and joins kids on a trip to wildlife sancturary Tiritiri Matangi. The Department of Conservation and TVNZ collaborated to make the series.

Interview

Rod Morris: A life filming in the wild...

Interview, Camera and Editing – Andrew Whiteside

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.

Looking at New Zealand - The Fight to Save the Saddleback

Television, 1968 (Full Length Episode)

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.

A Winter's Tale

The Mockers, Music Video, 1986

Conservation pioneer Richard Henry tried to save the kākāpō from rats and stoats, via an island sanctuary in 1890s Fiordland. His doomed bird rescue efforts might seem an odd subject for a pop ballad. Singer/songwriter Andrew Fagan also included a paean to Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton on 1985 Mockers album Culprit and the King. Fagan argues that adventuring is "naturally something to aspire to. Writing pop songs about it never felt like an issue to me." This performance of the song, directed in a single shot by Brent Hansen, roams a gloomy Avalon studio.

Nightclub

Fatcat & Fishface, Music Video, 2010

This song from the mysterious duo Fatcat & Fishface is from the Birdbrain album, praised by the Sunday Star Times as “the best children's record of 2009, and as witty as it is educational.” A collaboration with the Department of Conservation, the song gets down with the manu (birds) to reimagine the inhabitants of the NZ native bush at night as personalities dancing in a nightclub — from prowling with ruru/morepork to jiving with kiwi (“getting down on the ground”) and a boogying DJ kākāpō (“boom, boom!”). Nightclub was animated by Stephen and Ruth Templer.