Kia Ora! Greetings from your recent Kiwi traveler! Spending time in the land of the Hobbits this past semester has given me spectacular views, unforgettable experiences, great new friends, and valuable insight into the New Zealand culture across the world!
During my time in New Zealand, I had the opportunity to visit a tiny town called Kaikoroa which is outside of Christchurch in the Canterbury region in the South Island (for any of you geography buffs). The small tourist driven town is known for its proximity to unique marine life such as endangered species of whales, seals, and dolphins. Along the one-lane road to the town of Kaikoroa, there are areas marked as marine protected areas where tourists are only allowed to view from viewing platforms on the cliffs above the rocky shore. One of these areas is located at a seal breeding ground called Ohau point. The locals of the areas are adamant about keeping this seal breeding ground pristine and habitable for seals who return annually to breed and raise their pups.
Unfortunately on November 16th during the New Zealand spring, nature had a different plan for this seal breeding site. Two days after being able to witness these seals lounging at Ohau point, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake covered the rocky shores where these seals were inhabiting. The earthquake caused a landslide to occur during the night which covered the one-lane road, view platform, and seal habitat in a matter of seconds. From personal experience in a hostel only about an hour away from the epicenter, the shaking of the very earth underneath you can be unsettling and the sheer power of the geologic occurrences of the earth is amazing.
Sadly these this earthquake has wreaked havoc on these breeding grounds of the seals and effected many populations of marine life around the Kaikoroa area. The seal’s breeding season was yet to be in full swing so there is still chance for recovery. Some New Zealand biologists have suggested protecting other nearby areas suitable for seal breeding to give the seals soon to migrate to the country a place to breed.
The dedication of these biologists and New Zealanders to protect their natural habitat and provide suitable areas for their wildlife is something that is honorable. Locals wanted to protect these seal populations even before there was a crisis situation. The effort of these people to protect their natural wildlife is something that is honorable and comes naturally to locals. Hopefully, we can all learn a little something from the efforts of the kiwis to preserve their natural environment and take steps to do that as well!
Libby Milo is a Third Year majoring in Environmental Science.