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  Field Notes From
Hotspot: New Zealand

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On Assignment
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From Author

Kennedy Warne

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From Photographer

Frans Lanting

In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Photographs by Frans Lanting (top), and Chris Eckstrom

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Hotspot: New Zealand

Field Notes From Photographer
Frans Lanting
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When we started documenting the kakapo, only 62 of the birds were left in the wild. And they were all on this one little island where biologists were struggling to keep the species alive. To get a picture of them, I had to set up a remote camera at one of the “booming sites” where male kakapos make really deep calls to attract females. But they only do it at night, so we had to hide in a tent about 330 feet (100 meters) away to be close enough to operate the remote camera. I was completely immersed in the environment of a creature that very few people have ever seen. The kakapo is highly endangered, so it was exciting to be able to get so close to one and ultimately take a photograph that will be seen by millions of people around the world. It goes to the heart of why I do this work.

Finding kiwis to photograph was a real struggle. You would think that when you go to New Zealand it wouldn’t be so problematic to come face-to- face with the national bird, but it was actually one of the hardest birds I’ve ever worked with. They’re not only nocturnal, but they’re also very shy. And they have very good senses of hearing and smell. So it’s difficult to get close, and you hardly ever see one. We tried at least half a dozen locations, and they kept eluding us. They’re also extremely endangered, which didn’t help. Unless people start working with kiwis the way they’ve done with kakapos, they’ll become extinct within our lifetime.

A small island off the southern tip of the South Island is home to millions of small seabirds called shearwaters. I live on the coast of California, and every year about half a million of those same birds fly from the small islands off the coast of New Zealand across Monterey Bay on a big migration. So I might one day see many of the same seabirds I saw on the island outside my front door in Monterey Bay. We do live in a global environment.

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