Once New Zealand separated from Gondwanaland and became isolated it enabled the Moa to survive in a relatively predator
free environment, filled with avian fauna, the only mammals present were three species of small bats.
Recently discovered fossil evidence further seems to indicate there was a species of both Python and Crocodile which
may have included Moa on the menu.
This isolation enabled these birds to obtain a wide variety of sizes, from small Turkey sized species such as Euryapteryx
curtus to the gigantic Dinoris giganteus which stood 4 meters tall and weighed in at 250 kilograms.
All Moa species were herbivorous browsers.
They ranged in habitat from the alpine regions to the coastal areas.
The main mysteries surrounding this bird
is when did it become extinct, or if it is infact extinct.
It has been implied the Moa was already on the decline before the human colonization commenced; evidence from Maori
butchering and cooking sites show there must have been an abundance of birds, judging by the wasteful practices engaged in
the butchering process.
Meat from the thighs were primarily used, the remainder of the carcass was left to perish.This is rather surprising,
Maori of old were very conservation conscious to ensure resources were not overtaxed.
This was accomplished by oral traditionand folklore; seasons set out for hunting different species guaranteed a
Even the name Moa is somewhat of a conundrum, it does not appear among theoral traditional legends of the Maori, the
term used to widely make reference to this bird was Tarepo
.It seems generally accepted that the large species were supposed to have been extinct by the early 1800's, and if not
already extinct by then, they had become extremely scarce.
However if is plausible that some of the smaller species, neglected as a food source because of their bigger relatives
may have persisted longer.
The mid to late 1800's produced many reports of large birds witnessed inisolated areas of bush; this was an era of exploration,
regions were being opened up for settlement.
Many reports focused on the South Island, as gold prospectors and surveyors pushed into the isolated interior areas.
One of the most curious reports of this period includes a confrontation between a sheep dog and a Moa, the Moa turned
on the dog after being harassed, once the dog backed off, the Moa was witnessed to bob its headup and down in the direction
of the dog in what seemed to be a possible threat posture.
1931 and 1960 saw further reports of large birds in the
bush of the South Island, in 1989 a pair of birds were observed by trampers, once more in the South Island.
All accounts seemed to involve the large species of Moa.
In 1990 there were several sightings of large Birds, in the Arthur's Pass district, and tracks were found on two occasions.
The most recent sighting caught World Media attention.On January 20th 1993 three companions were tramping the Craigieburn
Rangearea, Paddy Freaney, Sam Waby and Rochelle Rafferty.
Mr. Waby paused at a secluded stream for a drink; Paddy Freaney's attention was drawn to a large bird which was nearby
Freaney drew the attention of his associates to the bird, which then panicked and fled.
Freaney chased the bird, with camera in hand, and at an approximated 35 meters got the now famous photo of the bird;
he further discovered and photographed, after loosing sight of it, wet bird footprints on a rock.
These pictures were shown to a Department of Conservation Officer who expressed the opinion that the bird seemed very
much like Megapteryx didinus, a sub-alpine species of moa known to have populated the South Island.
was performed on the photo by Canterbury University,specialists at the University expressed the view that the photograph was
of a genuine large bird and not some prop stage to look like one.
Deer and other four footed animals were further ruled out.
To add to the weight of evidence in support of the photograph being genuine,in the following year, 1994, a physician
was tramping in exactly the same area the snapshot was taken; he came across browsing damage that was consistent with what
is known of Moa feeding habits.
In light of the corroborating evidence the Department of Conservation made no attempt to follow up on what certainly
would have been the find of thecentury.
Is the Moa extinct?
Perhaps in some of New Zealand's remote areas, and there are still a few,the species may still hold a tenuous grasp on
The sad fact is if it were to be discovered how simple it would be to conclude what was started in those Maori middens
hundreds of years ago.