Kia Ora! This means ‘hello’ in Maori, the native language in New Zealand. Comprised of two main land masses known as North and South Island, New Zealand is well-known for its diverse geography, from majestic snow-capped mountains to evergreen rainforests, fresh lakes, open grasslands and beautiful beaches. Large numbers of tourists visit each year, yet many may not be be aware of all the amazing and unique wildlife that New Zealand has to offer. Whether you are exploring the forests of Abel Tasman National Park, hang-gliding over Lake Taupo or abseiling into a cavern, you will no doubt see or hear some of the fascinating species found in this beautiful country.
The New Zealand black stilt, or Kakï, is one of the most threatened wading birds in the world. An elegant and distinctive species, it has black plumage, slender red legs and a long refined bill. Once widespread on both islands, this rare bird is now restricted to the Mackenzie basin, an area where several scenes from the Lord of the Rings trilogy were also filmed. Now Critically Endangered, this species’ decline is primarily attributed to the introduction of mammalian predators such as cats, ferrets and stoats.
One of the oldest animals in the world today, the Brothers Island tuatara is the only remaining species in the order Rhynchocephalia, including ancient reptiles that existed 200 million years ago. Tuataras are of great interest to biologists, who must travel to the small North Brother Island off the coast of New Zealand to study them.
Looks that hook
Hooker’s sea lion, also known as the New Zealand sea lion, is one of the most threatened sea lions in the world. In common with lions on land, adult male Hooker’s sea lions have a distinct light-coloured ‘mane’ that reaches down to their shoulders. This species has a very restricted range and breeds only on the sub-Antarctic islands off New Zealand. As breeding colonies are very large, a mother uses a distinct call to find her pup in the masses.
The Nelson cave spider is New Zealand’s largest and only protected species of spider. It possesses an impressive leg-span of 13 cm, with long claws on their first two pairs of legs. As formidable as this arachnid may be, it is also quite rare and only found in the caves of the Nelson region. This impressive hunter feeds on large grasshopper-like insects called weta within the caves by descending upon them from above.
Dark Knight Down Under
The New Zealand long-tailed bat is one of only three extant land mammals native to New Zealand. The long tail, for which it is named, is nearly as long as its body. This little bat is found on forest edges and in caves on both islands, yet due to deforestation and invasive species it is considered Vulnerable, and is the focus of a national bat recovery plan at present.
How can we highlight this enchanting country’s wildlife without introducing its true celebrity? The North Island brown kiwi is New Zealand’s national bird, and it is unique not only because it is flightless, but unlike other flightless birds it is also wingless! This national icon is one of five species of kiwi found in New Zealand, and sadly it is considered an Endangered species. This is primarily due to the introduction of predators such as dogs and cats.
This is just a sample of all the wonderful wildlife you can hope to see if you visit New Zealand. Why not explore ARKive’s species found in New Zealand, or discover the wildlife seen in the surrounding waters by using ARKive to explore Google Earth.
Maggie Graham, ARKive Program Assistant