In the words of Primeval New Zealand presenter Peter Elliott, this small isolated country of ours "has always been home to some of the weirdest creatures on the planet". It's a place where giant birds that couldn't fly once lived, where reptiles are older than the dinosaurs, and it's home to the world's "rarest and fattest parrot" - the kakapo.

This one-off documentary, made by Natural History New Zealand (NHNZ), traces the origins of New Zealand's weird and wonderful wildlife.

"Massive tectonic upheavals and millions of years of isolation turned New Zealand into a floating laboratory pumping out these evolutionary mutants," says Elliott.

While NHNZ has made an international name making TV series' and documentaries for global channels such as National Geographic and Discovery, this is a New Zealand-focused doco commissioned by TVNZ.


For Elliott, who has been the voice of educational shows like 2001's Captain's Log, it was a special chance to see, and sometimes play, with New Zealand's rarest and earliest animal inhabitants. "And to discover the latest scientific eye-opening findings about where we came from and how we got here."

Some of the stars of the show are the kiwi, kakapo, kea and tuatara, and it also sheds new light on lesser known creatures of our unique environment including the New Zealand falcon, giant meat-eating snails, prehistoric giant weta, and the rarely seen takahe.

Elliott ponders perplexing mysteries, like why are some of our most iconic species' bloodlines older than the land itself? And how did these creatures get to be so strange?

The show also calls into question our national identity by revealing a sinister secret about where the kiwi came from. The answer is - apparently - astounding and rather disturbing.

"My prejudice - that New Zealand is the greatest country on Earth - was reinforced, of course, but also at times completely shaken, with new discoveries that frankly knocked me on my butt."

As well as high-definition footage of these strange inhabitants, filmed from the Far North to the sub-Antarctic islands, the doco also uses 3D-modelling and computer graphics by Weta Productions to recreate extinct creatures such as the moa and an aquatic bird that pre-dated penguins.

When: Tuesday, 7.30pm
Where: TV One
What: Weird and wonderful wildlife