Rayna Vijayan, of Ilam Primary School, asks :-

Why are there no monkeys in New Zealand?

Grant Knight, a zoologist and biochemist at Auckland University, responded.

Millions of years ago New Zealand was part of a huge country called Gondwanaland which also included Antarctica, Australia, South America and India.

About 100 million years ago when the climate was warm lots of animals began to evolve including dinosaurs and the ancestors of tuataras, frogs, moas and kiwis, but no monkeys (they came much later).

Just after this period the earth's crust under Gondwanaland began to move and it broke up into smaller chunks forming all the southern hemisphere continents, and taking the animals for a ride! New Zealand moved way out into the Pacific Ocean and, unless animals were very good swimmers or fliers they could not now get between the countries (no ships or aeroplanes then).

Monkeys evolved in Asia and South America and, although they could swim a river or a few kilometres of sea, they could not cross oceans and never reached New Zealand or Australia.

Some parts of Gondwanaland (such as India) that moved north and bumped into other land masses do have monkeys, because the monkeys walked across where the land masses touched.