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kakapo – still here (just)

Kakapo ate & ate, grew & grew.  Their soft feathers ripened into a sweet smell, until they became the largest parrot on earth.  Flying was over!  Wings were now to break their fall as they leapt, or for balance as they landed and ran.  So now, walking on stout legs, they made tracks to feeding grounds and bowls.

They were parrots of the night.  Sitting inside a bowl of earth, inflated into a feather balloon, the male sent out a love-call.  Booming down and across the valleys.  Oooom! Oooom! Oooom!

If a female arrived, he began to dance.  Spreading out his wings like a moth, he waved them slowly. Clicking his beak, he swayed from one foot to another.  Approaching her forwards, approaching her backwards.

Playing, delighting, inviting.   A more fun pet than a cat or a dog (so it was said!)

It’s a big job raising kakapo chicks (100+ days).  So as get enough food, she only lays her eggs when the podocarp trees or the tussocks are heavy with fruit.  She has to do it all on her own – he isn’t any help.  He’s too worn out – from that all-night booming!

Because kakapo lived long lives (maybe 100+ years) there were always plenty around. Once when you shook a tree in the daytime, sleepy kakapo rained down on the ground!  That was when their only hunter was hokioi, the giant eagle.

But by 1995 they were called the living dead.  Only 51 birds were left.  And by 1999, they were all gone from the mainland.  Now they only survive, where humans have put them, on 2 predator free islands: Codfish & Anchor.

Our scientists have fought for every last one. Every nest, every egg, every nestling.   Guarding them day and night.

All because now they are hunted by cat, stoat and ferret.  Their eggs are even small enough to be easily opened by kiore.

It’s strange, but big kakapo (male 2.5kg, female 2kg) don’t know how to fight back – unless (of course) it is the males fighting each other! Their camouflage colours don’t hide them, and their sound and strong scent gave them away.

Kakapo lived here for millions of years.  One day – we dream – they will return to the mainland.  That they will be safe here, once more, to eat & eat, grow & grow.

In the game, Cloak of Protection, kakapo is one of the birds you need to make a cloak of forest feathers. But – watch out – hokioi, kiore, ferret, cat and stoat stalk them.

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the once-fabulous huia

Once the huia lived in our North Island forests.  Last seen in the mid 1920s.  With their two different sized beaks – they were a wonder of the world!  Hers (seen here) was curved, & useful for digging larvae out of logs. His – short and stout – made a great drill.

Humans hunted them for the hat trade and collections, plus they were predated (eaten) by kiore, ship rats, stoats and cats.

Huia skins are held in museums in Adelaide, Akaroa, Amsterdam, Ann Arbor (USA), Ashburton, Auckland, Basel (Switzerland), Baton Rouge (USA), Berlin, Birmingham, Bremen, Brussels, Cambridge (UK), Cambridge (USA), Cardiff, Chicago, Christchurch, Dannevirke, Dresden, Dunedin, Edinburgh, Exeter, Florence (Italy), Foxton, Frankfurt, Geneva (Switzerland), Gisborne, Glasgow, Gore, Honolulu, Leicestershire, Leiden, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Melbourne, Michigan, Milan, Munich, Napier, Nelson, Newcastle, New Plymouth, New York, Norwich, Oslo, Oxford (UK), Palmerston North, Paris, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Porirua, Princeton, Rotorua, Stockholm, Sydney, Taihape, Te Awamutu, Timaru, Tring (UK), Vancouver, Vienna, Wanganui, Washington, Wellington, Whakatane and Whangarei.

Information from the booklet that goes with the game

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5 Glorious Gods and Goddesses

Tangaroa God of the sea.
His waves crash onto the sand.
His sons and daughters dive and swim in the deep.
Tangaroa gives no mercy to the creatures that harm his children.

Pandora with long black hair
and a purple dress,
her red scarf goes around her like a ribbon.
She opens the box.
Danger is ahead.

Minerva, Goddess of human settlement.
Makes peace from wars.
Her power is great.
Her fire swelters with flames.
Her spear is pointy.
Her helmet looks like a soaring hawk.

Tane Mahuta, the God of the forests.
Nature is his soul.
His friends are like his brothers.
The forest is his family.  The forest covers him whole.

Hine nui te Po,
The Goddess of darkness and death.
Great lady of the night and queen of the underworld
Wife and daughter of Tane Mahuta, god of the forests.

The five glorious gods

by Maha Frier, Waikanae Primary school, age 9
printed with her permission, from Native Habitats, Waikanae Children’s Creations: Mahara Gallery,  June 2012

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our extinct eagle

Hokioi, our extinct Haast’s eagle, is the world’s largest known eagle.  Weighing up to 10kg (male) and 15kg (female), they took prey up to 200 kg ie the BIG moa.

Living only in the South Island, they survived to 1300AD.  Although – there was one possible sighting in the 19th century.

They became extinct through loss of prey (people ate the moa), and human hunting.

Information from the booklet that goes with the game.

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how the world is made

The classical & pagan world-view was that the world was made of 4 elements: air, fire, water and earth.

These elements are reflected in the seasons: spring, summer, autumn, winter.  In the four magical creatures: eagle, dragon, salmon, stag.  In the card-deck: spades, clubs, hearts, diamonds.

In Aotearoa / New Zealand we did not have mammals – we had birds across all the realms.

So, in our Cloak of Protection deck we have: settlement, forest, sea, extinct.  With gods: Minerva, Tane Mahuta, Tangaroa, Hine nui te Po.  With four magical birds: kahu (the harrier), karearea (the falcon), torea (the royal albatross), hokioi (the giant eagle).

With these we make (or break) our world.

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Why Minerva?

Several people have asked me what Minerva – goddess of Western / European city-states – is doing in a New Zealand bird card deck. World views, and mythologies, should be separate.

Should they?  Or have mythologies always changed as we need to re-imagine our world?

Change came to our islands in two ways.  With mammals; with people.

With mammals, the impacts are obvious in the game.  They eat the birds!

And then there’s the people.  Two kinds.

First there were the Polynesian Maori.  While they made huge changes – their gods were in harmony with the landscape.  Their mythology explained how we came to be here, and the respect we need to show for the landscape in order to thrive.  It contained a very sophisticated view of the world that shares both the Celtic world-view, and that of modern physics.

Then there were the European settlers.  They wanted to make this ‘empty landscape’ a Britain of the South Seas.  So with picks and shovels they set about clearing forests.  Up grew farms, towns, and cities.

How could our pakeha ancestors do this?  Because our mythology was different.  Minerva was our inspiration. (Also known as Athena, Britannia, and Zealandia: on our coat of arms).

In the Greek story, Zeus swallowed Metis, the goddess of wisdom, who was pregnant with Athene (Minerva).  Just so the wisdom of the land can be swallowed up.

But his daughter burst fully formed, from his head.  She is Metis, her Mother, in another form.  Now the goddess of human community ‘cities are the gift of Athene (Minerva)’.

The birds in this set were part of this dynamic.  They were introduced to live in our settlements.  All except for kahu, the harrier that introduced itself from Australia – and thrived in the new landscape of open spaces…

This set – like their goddess – is not bad, if we (like the Celts)  recognize wisdom in her.  It was just new.  And difficult to assimilate.   As it is. . .

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game play-off

On March 28, 36 Waikanae students (years 5-8) came to Nga Manu Nature Reserve for a game play-off.  We had four teams (forest, sea, settlement, extinct).  It took 4 rounds for the  forest team to win!  Photo shows one – of the many – trades.

In between playing there was eel feeding, walking the bush, and seeing the birds.  The new education centre at Nga Manu was a fabulous place for us to be. It was a buzz!

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We Inspire Student’s Creativity

At the Mahara gallery, we have a Native Habitats project underway. Bringing together the arts and conservation, this is sponsored by the Phillip Family Foundation.

Year 5 and 6 students from Kapanui and Waikanae Schools have been coming to the gallery to play the game, write poetry, and create artwork.

The gallery will show all the artwork and the poetry that the students produce in a show Native Habitats: Waikanae Children’s creations.  These works will then be gifted to the Nga Manu Wildlife centre for display in their new education suite.

Meanwhile we’re planning a inter-schools play-off of the game at the education centre on 28 March

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Local School Programme

I’ve been down at the Mahara Gallery, along with Morgan’s exhibition, for the past 4 weeks.  Playing and playing and playing the game.  I’ve must have played a gazillion times by now, and still no two games have come out the same!

The last 2 weeks we’ve had a school’s programme going with year 5&6 students from our two local schools (Kapanui & Waikanae).  Over 300 students attended. Some students have returned for more sessions, or brought a parent in to play the game too.

Living by a beach, we’re all a bit shocked by the number of sea-birds the ferret (illus) can eat!

The game has also gone up to Taneatua school.  Here’s what their teacher, Sue Sisam, said of her year 7&8 class: ‘‘The game arrived today and the children have been playing it without stopping for an hour. They all said that they think it is really cool. Each time they played it we learnt a new strategy!!!’