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Year 12 Biology Students visit Tiritiri Matangi Island


The sun had barely risen and most students were still at home, when around 40 Sancta Maria College students had already hopped on a bus and begun their ride to catch a ferry from Auckland city.

This school trip to Tiritiri Matangi Island was organised for the Level 2 Biology students to aid them in their end of year external exams. Having been studying about genetic variation and change, it was beneficial for the Year 12 biology students to discover how some species in New Zealand have evolved over time.

When the students arrived at the island, after travelling approximately 75 minutes by ferry, they separated into groups and were taken on a guided tour to the lighthouse at the top of the island. Once at the lighthouse, the students participated in a discussion educating them on the topic of genetic variation and change, particularly using the islands own wildlife as an example.

Tiritiri Matangi Island is an open, protected sanctuary for rare and endangered bird species of New Zealand. Centuries ago farming during Maori occupation caused 94% of the islands native bush to be destroyed. However, between 1984 and 1994, volunteers planted over 250,000 hectares of trees and the island is now home to some of the most endangered bird and reptile species of the world.

An amazing aspect about the island is that there are no mammalian predators. The bothersome possums, rats and stoats that occupy New Zealand’s mainland, have been completely eradicated from Tiritiri Matangi Island to protect the wildlife that reside here. Over time, some of the birds on the island have adapted to hop rather than fly due to the lack of predators on the ground.

During the 2-hour guided hike the students were able to gain a deeper understanding of the species residing on the island. Many of the students were lucky enough to be able to see rare New Zealand birds such as the Tieke and Kokako and learn about their birdcalls, appearance and history of their population on the island.

It is all thanks to volunteers for restoring the island to what it is today that Sancta Maria College’s students were able to experience Tiritiri Matangi Island’s beauty and spectacular wildlife.

Overall, the Year 12 students found the trip to be informative for their external yet also extremely enjoyable too. It was amazing to learn how every aspect of the island, from the vegetation to the birds, have evolved to work together and support the environment and its inhabitants.

Zoe Chou