New Zealand Wildlife – Which Animals Are Found Only in New Zealand?

By Victor Kiprop on May 17 2019 in Environment

Hector's dolphin is the only cetacean native to New Zealand.

New Zealand is an island nation in Oceania. Before the arrival of humans 900 years ago, the island was free of mammals except those that could swim or fly including whales, seals, sea lions, and bats. Lack of predators led to island tameness, whereby animals lose their wariness of potential predators, and eventually to the rise of flightless birds including the moa, kiwi, kakapo, and weka. Today, New Zealand is home to both native and alien species of wildlife.

7. New Zealand Long-Tailed Bat

The New Zealand long-tailed bat is one of the two species of bats native to New Zealand, the other being the short-tailed bat. The bats feed on small flying insects especially beetles and moths. The Wildlife Act of 1953 established the legal framework for the conservation of the bird because it is critically endangered in the country and has been classified as "conservation dependent." Their preference for establishing nests in large old roost trees exposes them to habitat destruction.

6. Kiwi Birds

The kiwi is New Zealand's most famous bird. It is a flightless bird that lives for between 25 to 50 years. The five species of kiwi are protected in New Zealand because of their strong cultural presence. There are about 60,000 birds left in the wild although many more are held in captivity across the world. The Māori believed that the god of the forest protected kiwis and therefore used their feathers during traditional ceremonies. They are no longer hunted, but feathers from dead or captive birds are still used during ceremonies. The kiwi is the national bird of New Zealand.

5. Lesser Short-Tailed Bat

The lesser short-tailed bat is the only surviving bat of the Mystacinidae family. It is among the most terrestrial bats and spends more time on the ground than any other species. They are found in North Island where they inhabit the forests 3,600ft above the sea level. The population of the mammals is reducing drastically due to deforestation and the introduction of alien predators. In the 1990s, a population of 300 members was discovered in Waiohine Valley raising hopes that the species might thrive again. Some pups from the group were captured and introduced to a predator-free environment to enlarge the distribution of the species.

4. Weka

The weka is a flightless bird just like the kakapo and the kiwi. There are four subspecies of this bird, all of which are omnivorous. The weka inhabits the sub-alpine grasslands, rocky shores, forests, and dunes throughout New Zealand. The bird’s diet consists of small invertebrates and plants. They are threatened by the increasing numbers of feral cats and dogs, rats, and stoats. Degradation of their natural habitat through the destruction of forest and modification of wetlands is forcing the birds to migrate to new habitats where they remain vulnerable to predation and natural elements.

3. New Zealand Greater Short-Tailed Bat

The New Zealand greater short-tailed bat is physically larger than the New Zealand lesser short-tailed bat. It is either critically endangered or extinct since no recorded observation has been made since 1965. They thrived in the North and South Islands before the arrival of Europeans but a rat invasion in 1963 wiped out the population.

2. Kakapo

The kakapo or owl parrot is a large, nocturnal, flightless bird. The kakapo is distinct from the other parrots because it is the heaviest parrot, the only flightless parrot, nocturnal, herbivorous, and the males do not care for the young ones. The kakapo inhabited the four corners of New Zealand before the arrival of humans but island tameness and the inability to fly made it an easy target for humans and alien predators who drove them to near extinction. It is considered one of the world's most threatened parrot species. Today, each of the 147 birds remaining in New Zealand has been named and is protected by law.

1. Hector's Dolphin

Hector's dolphin is one of the four dolphins of the genus Cephalorhynchu and the only cetacean native to New Zealand. It is also the rarest and the smallest dolphin in the world. They are mostly found in the South Island and along the deep waters of Fiordland. They occasionally travel to the North Island but in small numbers. They are listed as endangered by the IUCN as their numbers continue to drop significantly.

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