Edge of the World – Chatham Islands

It a commonly used phrase when out of your own culture and environment, to tell the folks back home that you feel like you’re as far away as it’s possible to get. So it’s with surprise and excitement that I find such a feeling whilst still being only a few hours flight from my home on the shores of lake Te Anau, NZ. I’m on the Chatham Islands,  a mere 800km east of New Zealand. This little archipelago of islands nestled deep in the South Pacific was one of the last places on the planet to be reached in our species radiation. It remains home not only to a fascinating human history to which the contemporary inhabitants are still inextricably linked but also to species found nowhere else and a fragile island ecology requiring our care to persist. The species here rely on isolation from threat for their very existence. Albatross are a perfect example of this. Why do they only nest on remote islands nestled in the roaring forties or furious fifties? Because on land they are hopelessly vulnerable to the predators that are common on all continents and also because without a stiff breeze these birds struggle to get into the air. Stiff breezes are no rare thing down here.

These islands are amongst the most important bird islands in the Southern Hemisphere. Photo: James Reardon

These islands are amongst the most important bird islands in the Southern Hemisphere. Photo: James Reardon

But that’s only part of the story, the tiny islands surrounding the Chathams and Pitt Island are the scene of some remarkable conservation stories, the black robin the most notorious, but several others equally fascinating. Is it impossible to recover a species that has declined to a single female? Pioneering conservationists and the black robin itself say no.

Pitt Islands only current albatross, a Northern Royal patiently awaiting it's mate. Photo: James Reardon

Pitt Islands only current albatross, a Northern Royal patiently awaiting it’s mate. Photo: James Reardon

The community on these islands know the value of their home, both as a rich and diverse playground, as a larder and as a farm. The desire to see wildlife prosper along-side their farming and fishing enterprises is an inspiration. I’m privileged to be here making a film on this community and the way it relates to that environment and it’s history. It’s not without its challenges but the hard won rewards are more than worth it. Here’s a tiny clip to give you a wee taste of the conditions.

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~ by motolorax on January 21, 2014.

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