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...two travellers in search of the world's wildlife

13 March 2011

Welcoming Queenstown

12th March 2011

New Zealand has just the same problems as Australia with wildlife conservation. They have oodles of natural wilderness, plenty of pristine habitat, and a population that is dead keen on conservation. But at various times in the brief recent history of the country people have introduced rabbits, red deer, douglas fir, brush-tail possums and stoats (to control the rabbits, duh) and now many of the native bird species are caught on the brink of extinction and cannot survive on the mainland. There are various offshore islands being used as predator-free reserves while they try and work out what to do with 6 million plus possums and so forth.

Anyway, we got to see one of the rarest birds, the takahe, in a small bird sanctuary near Te Anau before we hit the road to Queenstown. It’s a turkey-sized flightless bird with a big red beak and the chicks are hand-reared using takahe shaped glove puppets to make sure they don’t think of humans as their parents.

Queenstown is a town in an utterly enviable location on the pristine shores of an enormous alpine lake, and when we arrived it was bathed in sunshine. Nice change from the wall-to-wall grey clouds of the last three days in Fiordland. It seems to have a very youthful demographic, and yet feels peaceful and relaxed. There’s an almost London feel to the diversity and quality of cafes and restaurants; we had a perfectly realised French bistro lunch, but there’s Thai and tapas and modern fine dining rubbing shoulders with fish and chips just down the road.

I predict we’ll like Queenstown.

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