11 Feb 2019
A Look at New Zealand's Unique Native Wildlife
It's not all about the Kiwi bird, New Zealand has heaps of weird and wonderful creatures roaming around. We've put together some of our favourites so you can get your binoculars out and get ready to track them down.
Quite possibly the most majestic creature on the planet, this particular breed of dolphin is teetering on the edge of extinction. With under a hundred left in the ocean, sightings of these dolphins are as rare as they are. The few remaining dolphins call the west coast of the North Island home, they can be identified by a curved fin, but as the smallest dolphin species in the world, can be quite hard to spot.
NZ Sea Lion
With only around 12,000 left these aquatic behemoths are most commonly found on the sub-antarctic Auckland and Campbell Islands (over 400 kilometers from the tip of the South Island). These island groups are home to some of the rarest creatures on Earth. Think of it as the Galapagos of Australasia. This sanctuary is reachable through expedition cruises like the ones HERE, where you can catch a glimpse of the rare sea lions.
NZ Fur Seal
New Zealand has tonnes of seal colonies for you to visit, some great ones we love are around Kaikoura, Milford sound, and Tauranga Bay. Their breeding season begins in the middle of November, and lasts until the middle of January, during this time thousands of fur seals will nest on our rocky shores, showcasing their spectacular silvery coats, and their absurd noises. While they like to stick on the coast, they do occasionally like to travel inland, like the iconic time a seal showed up in an Auckland backyard. We think they're adorable.
Sure bats aren’t the most appealing creatures, but we think ours are pretty cool. Usually found dwelling around the tiny town of Geraldine, just south of Christchurch, these bats are best seen at dusk. Weighing an average of 10 grams, these nifty little creatures can reach speeds of up to 60 kilometers an hour. Some might call them evil butterflies, but this nationally endangered species is pretty darn adorable.
Morepork / Ruru
The Ruru, a native species of owl, got its more common name, Morepork, when it called out just that, “More pork”. It’s said to be a haunting sound, and full of sadness, but we like to think these cute balls of fluff are just after some bacon. They’re abundant around New Zealand, and anywhere there’s trees, you’ll likely hear a Morepork hooting at sunset.
This regal bird is actually a species of parrot. Like a lot of our unique wildlife, this bird is nationally endangered. Unlike most of our birds, Kea nest in the ground around the alpine areas of the south island. If their beautiful colours weren’t enough for you to fall in love with them, they were literally bird of the year. But don’t take our word for it, get out there and snap some Kea pics!
It’s a close as we’re getting to a New Zealand dinosaur. The Tuatara is descended from prehistoric reptiles, and while it’s not a Tyrannosaurus by any stretch of the imagination, we’re stoked to be home to our budget version of an croc. While there are no longer wild Tuatara on the mainland, the surrounding islands of New Zealand are home to the wild reptiles. An especially interesting attribute of our Tuatara is that they have a third eye on the top of their head, which is covered in a thin layer of skin.
The Tui. Not just our favourite brand of beer, but also one of our favourite birds. These magnificent bird shimmer and shine their blues, reds, and greens all across New Zealand anywhere you find trees. Like their cute cousin the hummingbird, Tui’s mostly feed on nectar and are famous throughout New Zealand for their beautiful melodies.
These Endangered penguins are thought to be one of the rarest penguin species left on earth with only between 6000-7000 left. They can be found around Stewart island and in some rare instances, further north at Banks Peninsula. While I think we’ve all wanted a pet penguin at some point in our lives, it’s crucial that if you see penguins in New Zealand, especially our yellow-eyed penguin, you stay clear of them and leave them alone.
The pinnacle of New Zealand iconography. It can’t fly, it doesn’t have a tail, but it sure is a national treasure. There are five breeds of Kiwi, each with its own unique flavour.
Their endangered status is set at endemic,, with only 68,000 left in the world, and their numbers shrink each year. We lose around 20 kiwis a week to predators like stoats and possums. The only real chance to see them now is at a protected habitat or zoo.
Here’s a great article about how you can help protect the Kiwi bird while you’re here travelling.
If you’re as fascinated as we are with New Zealand’s native wildlife, grab a car from us, and get exploring.
We hope you see some cool creatures when you visit New Zealand. But remember that you’re visiting their home. Take pictures, pose for selfies, but don’t touch or interfere with the wildlife.