#3 Fake a Giant Moa Discovery

10 Points

Take a photo of yourself discovering a giant moa: the biggest bird that ever lived! Make a bone, a footprint, or a whole bird, then break the internet with proof that these extremely extinct giants are still around and have just been hiding in your backyard!

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What to do

Your mission is:

Fake a giant moa discovery. Check out the notes for the tools you need (above), and go and discover a giant extinct bird!
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1. BONE UP ON CLUES

Imagine that you’re a detective and while exploring your backyard you find a huge bone. What could it be? Dinosaur? Great-grandpa?  Or … giant moa! 

Moa poo clues

2. WHAT POO-ROOF DO YOU HAVE?

Think about what evidence you’d need to prove to the world that you’ve rediscovered the moa. A footprint? A photograph with a live moa? A moa poo (aka coprolite)?

What did a moa eat and would its poo still somehow have corn in it? 

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3. FAKE THE FIND

Fabricate the evidence! (Fabricate can mean either build or fake – in this case it’s both!!) Use cardboard, papier-mâché, fur, mud, other animal bones, an old brown sock and some goggly eyes … whatever it takes to make your fake!

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4. SET UP THE SCENE

Find a place to take a photo of your moa discovery. Think like a moa, eat like a moa, move like a moa, mow the lawns like a moa (oh sorry, wrong sort of moa!) ... a hand puppet could do the trick in the right light/background (e.g. your garden flax bush!).

Tip: you could use a smartphone or tablet filter to fake an old black and white photo (that you just happened to find in your granddad's shed!). 

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5. POST FOR SCIENCE AND GLORY

Grab some well-placed photos, upload them to Wild Eyes and trick the world into believing your remarkable scientific discovery.

Wear a helmet to protect yourself from the shower of riches surely coming your way!

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SKUX SKULL

Take it to the next level and fake a T-rex discovery. You could be the next Joan Wiffen. Kiwi Joan was a dinosaur hunter who discovered what dinosaurs lived in NZ by digging up their buried bones (fossils). She found a relative of the tyrannosaurus in the Urewera.

Could you get the hunt for T-rex to come to your backyard? 

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MOA MAKING TIP

There were over 10 species of moa and some were as small as chickens – so you could maybe use leftover bones from the roast to fake a fossil discovery. Pro perspective tip: if you hold a chicken bone closer to the camera and stand back it'll make it look bigger. You could make your discovery in your DIY Cave to double your points. 

Note: these guys are holding an actual giant moa leg bone not a humungous chicken (you'd need a moa-sized oven to roast that chook!) 

What's happening?

I'LL JUST WALK THANKS

For a long long … long time, there were no mammalian predators in NZ (except for pekapeka/bats), some scientists called it "a land without teeth". 

Aotearoa was pretty much paradise for the birds. Some of our birds stopped flying. The giant moa got so nui (big) that it became the tallest bird that EVER lived!

They didn't have a lot of natural predators to fly away from, until ... 

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– For millions of years every day was a walk in the park for moa

RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK

... until we humans arrived:

RATS!

With us humans came other invaders: from 1250 AD Polynesians brought kiore (the Pacific rat) to NZ which wiped out some smaller species of birds, as well as frogs and lizards. 

Europeans came from the late 1700’s, bringing more rats (ship rat and Normway rat), and cats, stoats, weasels and ferrets. Like the kiore, these predators could reproduce rapidly and travel widely. The new arrivals could also kill larger prey, and some could also swim and climb!

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– A rat eating a fantail nest ice cream

WE'RE NOT LAUGHING NOW!

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– Extinction is forever, not funny at all.

The native birds weren't ready for the invasion ... Evolution (and adapting to threats) can take longer than it takes you to tidy your room ... a lot longer!

Imagine if martians arrived in NZ on a space-waka and they were all bigger and faster than us and they saw us like how you see ice cream (nom nom...), and you get some idea of what it was like to be a bird.

One of the awesome birds we lost forever was this laughing owl (whēkau); even though it was a sharp mouser with a wicked cackle, people, rats and cats ultimately hunted whēkau to extinction.

HUMAN HUNTERS

Humans hunted large animals – moa and other large birds, and seals, for food and for other animal products like skins, feathers and oil. 

This resulted in the first human-caused extinctions of New Zealand species. The moa meal deal only lasted a couple of centuries. Rough.

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A recreation of a moa hunt, featuring Te Rangi Hiroa / Sir Peter Buck (left), 1899.

STINKIN EXTINCTION

FACT: globally up to 8,700 species a year, or 24 a day are lost to extinction! I'm a kōkako (which is bird for sweetest song on the motu!). Not so long ago I nearly joined that dead-as-the-dodo list, like my cousin the huia. Not cool people.  

Inspiration

EAGLE VS YOU

Before people, moa’s only predator was a massive bird of prey called Haast’s eagle (aka 'pouakai' or 'hokioi') ... It was one of the largest and most deadly predators the world has ever seen with a 3m wingspan and claws strong enough to pick up a child!

Check out this awesome recreation of a pouakai catching a child. That's one hard-out walk to school!

NO MOA NO MORE

Giant Haasts eagle attacking New Zealand moa

– Eagle vs moa

Māori campfire stories and rock paintings tell tales of huge pouakai plucking children as fast-food.

But sadly when the moa was hunted to extinction by early Māori, the giant eagle also died out: no food = no survival for the giant fly guy.

Takeaways

Moa were easy prey for early Maori. Because they couldn’t fly they were easy to catch and herd into pits to be killed, especially the chicks which dogs (kuri) would have eaten.

Scientists reckon moa were eaten to extinction by 1500

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– An artist reimagines a moa hunt, 1892

BIG BIRD

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– The human here is 1.8m tall. How would you rank on this height chart against these moa (the tallest is over 3m tall)?

There were many different types of moa and the giant moa was one of the biggest birds ever known. It was more than three metres tall and weighed about 250 kilograms. This probably explains why these jumbo sized birds didn’t fly!!

FRANKEN MOA

Some scientists reckon we can bring the moa back to life using DNA found in bones… but anybody who has seen Jurassic Park knows that this is a Very Bad Idea. Or is it? – what do you think?

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– An Orokonui moa mob

THEY AIN'T NO MOWER

By the way – the word 'moa' is pronounced more like the word ‘more’, than the word ‘mower’.

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