British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson had the big questions on his mind when confronted with New Zealand's wildlife at Zealandia.

"Do you think if the kiwi, you know, really tried, it could fly?" he asked at one point on his tour with Conservation Minister Maggie Barry.

Johnson was similarly quizzical about the takahe. Inspecting the rather plump bird, he was told it had "abandoned" its wings due to a lack of predators.

"I don't want to be disobliging to the takahe," he said. "But it's not surprising given they dispensed with their wings, that they are now finding life tough. It's a bit of a lesson for us all isn't it? It's like, you know, nuclear weapons."

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He went on to start to explain exactly what the takahe could teach the world about nuclear disarmament before being cut off.

Barry had started the tour in something of a Grimm's Fairy Tale fashion, telling him about her year-old campaign to kill all the rats, possums and stoats to save animals such as the takahe and tuatara - a campaign Johnson referred to with some relish as her "campaign of slaughter".

Johnson came across a takahe, a tuatara called Tane, a weta, and saw a kaka and piwakawaka.

It was the tuatara which fascinated him most. Holding Tane, he marvelled it was a 200 million year life form on his arm.

But that encounter did take a rather astonishing turn when Johnson appeared to think he might turn into a reptilian shape-shifter.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson (left) at Zealandia with Conservation Maggie Barry, and his tuatara doppelganger and overlord. Photo / AFP, Marty Melville
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson (left) at Zealandia with Conservation Maggie Barry, and his tuatara doppelganger and overlord. Photo / AFP, Marty Melville

They already had a similar hair-do - the tuatara sported soft blonde spikes. Johnson pondered whether humans too would one day turn into reptiles and was reassured by Barry his skin did not look at all lizard-like. Johnson then referred to David Icke, saying he had a belief reptiles were the overlords of the world.

Barry had admittedly taken a bit of poetic licence with her hosting responsibilities. She told him the tree weta he was looking at was only wee: "the giant weta will take your hand."

Then came the kereru, which she solemnly informed him would gorge itself on so many berries "they fall to the ground and burst!"

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"That is just tragic," Johnson responded, clearly struck by this image of fat birds plopping to the ground en masse and bursting like over-ripe tomatoes. He proposed it be used for an anti-obesity campaign.

And when Johnson accused the cold, sleepy tuatara of showing "sort of a marmoreal indifference" to him, Barry explained "it was clearly dazzled by your presence."

At the end, a beaming Johnson said he had been delighted to learn all about campaign of slaughter, adding he was certain it was all done very humanely indeed "and they die with a smile on their faces, and I congratulate you on that."

Asked to pick a favourite animal, Johnson hesitated apparently fearful of having his hand taken off by an offended giant weta. But he eventually opted for the takahe and tuatara.

Tane's secret reptilian overlord powers had worked.