A Land Without Mammals -- By Lyn Chaffart

My husband and I took a very special trip this past Christmas. In celebration of our 25th wedding anniversary, he took me on a surprise trip to New Zealand.

It was an exceptional trip all around, and we learned many interesting facts. One of the facts that surprised me was that before man came to these two out-of-this-world islands, there were only two species of mammals living there. Both were tiny bats. Other than these, the islands were inhabited only by reptiles and amphibians, bugs and birds.

Some time before 1300 ad, a group of indigenous Polynesian people arrived in New Zealand. Over time they came to inhabit the islands, developing a distinct culture, the Maori culture. With them came the Polynesian rat and the dog. The arrival of the Europeans in New Zealand in the 18th century brought more mammals to the fertile lands. Rabbits and deer were introduced for sport. Having no natural enemies on the islands, these mammals thrived and soon became a nuisance. Stoats were introduced to control the rabbits, and soon they, too, were out of control. Possums were introduced to augment the fur trade. These soon became so numerous that they are now jokingly known as "New Zealand Speed Bumps" due to the vast number of possum road kill that can be seen along the sides of any New Zealand road.

It wasn't long before the natural fauna of New Zealand began to suffer from these introductions. There have been 57 species of birds that have gone extinct. Some were overhunted for food. Others died off due to loss of habitat - indiscriminate forest burning, logging, forest clearing for pastureland. Still others became extinct because of the introduction of predatory animals, including bird enemies numbers one and two, stoats and rats. The prominent extinction groups are all 14 of the ancient Moa species, 11 rails, 6 wrens and both of the indigenous eagles.

Of the remaining indigenous species, most, if not all, including the famous Kiwi bird, are considered endangered.

It's sad, isn't it?

The story is similar for the flora of New Zealand. The giant Kauri trees are seriously endangered thanks to the forestry and gum industries. Introduced trees and plants thrive on the islands, crowding out the native flora.

Is it any wonder that the department of conservation in New Zealand is as active as it is?

God created our world to survive and thrive in a delicate balance. Whenever man has interfered with that balance, the result has been disastrous to the indigenous animal and plant life of the region. We see this all over the globe, and on a much more global scale, we currently are experiencing this with the effects of global warming.

So why do we interfere with nature?

Mostly for selfish reasons. Sport, industry, convenience. But it makes you think. God also created human beings to survive and thrive in this world. We could have all lived in harmony with His nature, except for one tiny thing: We weren't content to live as "part" of nature, we wanted to exploit nature and bring it under our control for our own enjoyment and profit.

Where did we go wrong?

We went wrong the day we decided to look towards satisfying our own desire for knowledge, rather than trusting that God was everything we would ever need.

Now I'm not pointing the finger at Adam and Eve. Any one of us would have done the same. What I want to do is to follow the advice of Paul, " … Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead …" (Phil 3:13) Paul encourages us to learn from the past, but not to dwell in it. Our goal is to take what we've learned and use that knowledge to make the future better.

It's too late to save the extinct flora and fauna of New Zealand, but it isn't too late to shape a better future. We can learn from our past mistakes. We can let God help us overcome our selfishness and our greed. We can let God work through us to shape a future that is better than what we now have. But it has to start with us-you, and me!

Lord, may our daily prayer be this: Reveal to us where selfishness and pride continue to rampage in our hearts! Help us to hate our innate selfishness and pride, and yield these to You! Strip us of ourselves so that we can have a positive impact on the world. Bring us back in line with what you intended for us from the beginning: Lives focused 100% on You! Only then is there any hope for our future!

In His love, Lyn

Lyn Chaffart, Mother of two teens, Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, and Scriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, www.scripturalnuggets.org , with Answers2Prayer Ministries, www.Answers2Prayer.org .