Animals in New Zealand
Find out about the most unique animals native to New Zealand
New Zealand has an enormous and fascinating diversity of flora and fauna. Many species – fish, insects, birds, lizards and frogs – are not found anywhere else in the world. These incredible animals include the world’s only flightless parrot, called the kakapo and the famous kiwi bird , which gives the country its nickname, a bird with nostrils at the end of its beak!
But since people first arrived in previously uninhabited New Zealand, a vast number of these unique species have become extinct, from the threats posed by the new invaders. This includes nearly one third of native land and freshwater birds, almost a fifth of sea birds and almost half of the country’s frog species.
But even now, there are still many hundreds of animals in New Zealand in danger of becoming extinct as well. The list of New Zealand’s endangered animals (put together by the Department of Conservation) is a long one, with entries as diverse as different types of snails, stag beetles, bats, ducks and our friend the kiwi bird. For many years New Zealand’s biodiversity has had threats such as pests, weeds and fire which have had a devastating impact on New Zealand’s native ecosystem,
A lot of the pests were species introduced when the first European settlers arrived in the 19th century. Native animals often have no defence against these introduced predators. The pests include rats, wasps, and possums - the cute Australian import which was introduced into New Zealand in 1837 to establish a fur trade. However, now it is proving a danger to native birds and snails as well as native forests.
Another endangered bird is the kaka bird - a red parrot that lives on both the North and South islands. As with many NZ endangered animals it is being bred in captivity in order to reintroduce them to the wild (its natural habitat is deep in the forests), and help the fragile population.
These conservation measures are the country’s strategy of how to preserve and protect their endangered species. But visitors to New Zealand should be aware that the ecosystem is also under pressure from increasing travel and trade. For some of these introduced species can come through their borders with travellers and in imported goods.
One aspect of New Zealand’s biosecurity system, is to reduce the environmental threat from airline passengers bringing in restricted and risk items. These may unwittingly introduce plant pests and diseases not already in the country, and add yet another pressure to already endangered species.
Native Animal New Zealand: www.doc.govt.nz/nature/native-animals/