By Henry Ficklin
In the spirit of engaging young people who are involved in conservation, please see below a second blog from Henry Ficklin, aged 10, who is giving his own perspective on the New Zealand kakapo and bees. You can find Henry's first blog on why conservation is important here.
The kakapo is a large nocturnal parrot that lives on the ground and cannot fly. It has yellow and green feathers, except around the head where it is grey, it has short legs and huge feet and tiny wings. It can only be found in New Zealand and is one of the world’s longest living birds. The Maori are indigenous people of New Zealand, and the kakapo is featured in many of their legends and folklore. It was hunted for meat and for feathers, as they made very highly valued pieces of clothing. Another use of the kakapo (this is my favourite) was to have one as a pet. If I was Maori I definitely would like one as a pet.
When the Europeans first came to New Zealand they accidently brought new predators that hunted the kakapo. These included rats, cats and domestic dogs. The kakapo usually had no predators except the Maori and so quickly became rare. Stoats and ferrets were later introduced to eat the rabbits on the island that were becoming a pest. Unfortunately, the plan had devastating consequences as the newly introduced animals started eating the kakapos and their eggs as well. Eventually, in the early 1970s, it got to the point where the kakapo was thought to be extinct. However, in 1975 14 males were found. There were no females amongst them and it appeared that the kakapo was doomed. Later still, a few more kakapos were discovered. They had both males and females and the discovery was a lot more hopeful than the previous one. In 1980 the Kakapo Recovery Plan was put into action. Kakapos are kept on three islands without any predators. They are some of New Zealand’s rarest birds and to this day they have never fully recovered in numbers, but they are increasing and it is hopeful that they will once again colonise New Zealand.
The bee is a different story. A famous creature often only depicted as being useful for honey and honey alone. Many people when they first hear that the bee is decreasing in numbers will not care that much. But this attitude is quite a problem. Bees as many people know pollinate plants and flowers. They are the chief pollinators on our planet. Therefore, if they were to die out many types of plants would slowly decrease in number and within five years humans would have a food problem (I know five years doesn’t sound much of a threat but you would regret thinking that if you lived five years after the bee dies out!). Meat shortages would also occur as animals that we eat, such as cows and pigs, would not have enough plants to eat and their numbers would also decline, or even become extinct themselves.
Therefore bee conservation is incredibly important. The kakapo, though important to save, is not vital for the entire planet. It is also easier to conserve because it only lives in one place which makes conservation efforts easier to focus. However, I think that because the kakapo is beautiful and extremely interesting it is easier to get people to think about conserving it compared to the bee. Though more well-known, the bee is not a creature we think of as being rare. We first hear about it when we are like two years old but we think about it in relation to honey and bee stings. The first time I heard about the kakapo was when I was learning about it being a rare bird that needed saving. So it is important to change the way we think about the bee. We need to realise how important it is to the world-wide ecosystems and to understand that it needs our help. We also need to remember that the bee does not live in just one part of the world. In fact, the only continent where it does not live is Antarctica. The bee can also fly. This sounds obvious, but it means we can’t keep it on one island like the kakapo. So how can we save the bee?
To save the bee we need to know about the bee. We need to learn about how important it is in schools, at home and just about anywhere. I learnt about declining bee numbers from books, from my Grandfather, my Mum and David Attenborough, who is my hero (David Attenborough also made a show about the kakapo but I first learnt about it in school from my teacher who is from New Zealand). When we know about the problem we can think about how to fix it. I don’t know how to fix the bee problem for the world but at home we can grow more flowers, leave bees alone when we see them and build nestboxes or hives. We can also buy honey that is made in our local area.
It really scares me to think that the bee may die out and not just in my lifetime. I don’t think we can live without bees so we need to start taking better care of them. There is a lot of information about how we can make small changes to protect bees so please take a look!
Click here to read an article about MPs urging the government to ban bee-harming pesticides.
Click here to read about some of the organisations involved in pushing the government to adopt a Bee Action Plan.