New Zealand, which is on-the-watery-way to nowhere, has always been blessed and cursed by its isolation. For 80 million years, the only mammal ashore was the bat. Maori sailors arrived a mere 800 years ago, bringing rats and dogs with them. They were met by a seemingly endless flock of dumb and flightless birds known as moas. They stood 12 feet tall, weighed 500-plus pounds and were KFC-delicious. One hundred and fifty years later, the moas were extinct. Westerners, meanwhile, brought fat pigs, sneaky mice and virulent diseases. Both groups soon realized that their mutual environment was fragile and needed to be managed wisely if they were to survive.
The most recent invasive species to threaten the Kiwis is the dreaded Mediterranean fan worm (Sabella spallanzanii). It arrived on a foreign freighter’s bottom, and soon choked local waters and severely threatened seafood exports.