Practice Short answer questions in IELTS reading with this complete text.
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Answer the questions below. Type your answers in the spaces provided.
The First Inhabitants of New Zealand
A. New Zealand, also known by its Maori name, Aotearoa, which literally translates to ‘The Land of the Long White Cloud’, became a separate land mass in its own right approximately 80 million years ago. After the dinosaurs perished 15 million years later, apart from a few species of bat, no indigenous mammals existed. Species of birdlife were, however, abundant, one of the most notable being the Giant Moa; weighing up to 250kg, it was the largest bird to ever live. Whilst birds were unmolested by predators in the form of mammals, many of their own kind were vicious attackers. Despite its bulk, the Giant Moa was hunted by Haast’s Eagle which was, in turn, the largest bird of prey ever known to exist. It had enormous talons beneath its 13kg body and a wing span of three metres. The eagle’s huge talons are said to have been able to penetrate deep into the flesh of its prey and even penetrate bone.
B. Haast’s Eagle was unusual in that it was one of the few birds known to attack prey significantly larger than itself. It was able to do this for two main reasons; firstly, there was no need for it to carry its prey away and protect it from ground-dwelling predators, since none existed in its environment; it only needed to protect its food source from others of its kind. In addition, it was able to fell large victims such as the Moa due to the extensive damage its sharp talons would cause; it was not required to physically wrestle the life out of its prey, simply wait for death to occur due to extensive blood loss. Early Maori named the eagle ‘te hokioi’ as it represented the call made by the bird. Much admired and later depicted in rock art, the bird was the inspiration for many Maori kites, which were created in its image. This practice is believed to have been followed as birds of all types were perceived to be the communicators between humans and the spirit world; the philosophy being that kite flyers could connect with that world, as the kite flying high in the air was thought to act as an extension of the owner controlling it from the ground below.
C. Around 400-500 years ago, both the Giant Moa and Haast’s Eagle became extinct. The former was a popular hunting prey for Maori tribes, its size making it an excellent food source; however, over-hunting led to its rapid decline as population reproduction could not match the rate at which numbers were lost to hunters. Haast’s eagle is believed to have disappeared as a result of the loss of its prey, though additional changes in its habitat brought about by the appearance of man most likely also contributed. There is archaeological evidence to suggest that the ultimate loss of the Moa also had a significantly detrimental effect on the hunters and their dependents that had, until then, relied on it as a food source; it appears that extinction of the great bird resulted in extreme cases of famine.
D. Scientists estimate that the number of birds in or around New Zealand, prior to settling by man, would have numbered in the billions. However, human activity has not been the only factor which has resulted in the loss of bird populations; loss of species also occurred as a result of natural forces; the volcanic eruption of Lake Taupo, for example, led to the extermination of a plethora of species. The explosion from the Taupo crater is thought by many experts to have been the most powerful to have occurred on earth in the last 5,000 years.
Answer the questions below using NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS AND/OR A NUMBER from the passage for each answer.
Write your answers in boxes 1– 5 on your answer sheet.
1. How wide could the Haast’s Eagle’s wings spread?
2. How did large prey of the Haast’s Eagle die?
3. Who were Maori trying to contact when flying kites?
4. What problem for humans was caused by the extinction of the moa?
5. Which natural phenomenon is thought to have reduced the number of birds in New Zealand?