24 Oct 2014

New insight into rapid moa extinction

3:08 pm on 24 October 2014

Auckland University scientists have revealed that it took just 200 years for Maori hunters to push the moa to extinction.

Moa bones at Honeycomb Hill caves.

Moa bones in the Honeycomb Hill Caves, north of Karamea on the South Island's West Coast. Photo: PHOTO NZ

Associate Professor George Perry said Maori arrived in New Zealand in the mid-13th century and made moa a main food source.

Dr Perry said moa extinction happened quickly because the birds reproduced very slowly - perhaps not beginning to breed until they were two to three years old - and did not lay many eggs.

He said Maori hunters would take birds of all sizes as well as the eggs and the moa was unable to tolerate the ecological pressure.

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