Native Animals that you can only see in New Zealand

New Zealand is lucky to have a number of unique wildlife that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. Sure, you can sit down and watch a documentary but nothing can beat a wildlife encounter while out hiking or on an ocean cruise exploring a dream destination. Here are some interesting facts about New Zealand’s native wildlife and where you can find them.


New Zealand is a haven for bird life but did you know that most of them don’t actually fly? While flying is an important characteristic of birds to escape predators or to reach higher food sources it is believed that some of New Zealand’s beloved birds have evolved over time due to a lack of threatening mammals and ample food sources available on the ground. Or perhaps they are just lazy and flying takes up too much energy?

The Kiwi Bird

The most famous flightless bird of them all is the Kiwi- a national icon and a cultural symbol of New Zealand. The nocturnal bird can live up to 50 years and are related to the Emus and Cassowary family. Kiwi birds are endangered but given their cherished cultural status conservation programs are working to protect the population.

Kiwi Birds can be found in forest locations such as Northland, North Auckland, Southland, Stewart Island or at wildlife sanctuaries including Zealandia, Willowbank Wildlife Reserve, Auckland Zoo, Kiwi Encounter at Rainbow Springs, Wellington Zoo, Kiwi Birdlife Park and many more. 


13 of the world’s Penguins can be found here in New Zealand. The three most common types are the Yellow Eyed Penguin, Fiordland Crested Penguin and the Little Penguin. Head to Christchurch, Oamaru, Akaroa or Dunedin to spot these creatures in their natural habitat.  


Another notable bird is the Albatross- the world’s largest seabird. Dunedin is the ONLY place in the world with a mainland breeding colony of Royal Albatross and you can witness them in full flight at the Royal Albatross Centre in the Otago Peninsula. 


The waters surrounding New Zealand are rich with half the world’s dolphins, seals, sea lions and whales species.  Furthermore, Hector’s Dolphins, New Zealand Sea Lions and Fur Seals cannot be found in any other corner of the globe. Close encounters with these sea critters on eco cruises, kayaking experiences, whale watching and seal swims will simply take your breath away.


There are 9 different species of Dolphins found along the New Zealand coastline but Hector’s Dolphins are unique to New Zealand. The distinctive dolphin with black and white markings make it easy to spot when you are out on the water. Join a kayaking tour or nature cruise with the opportunity to even get in the water and enjoy a once in a lifetime swim with the dolphins in Akaroa.

New Zealand Fur Seals and Sea Lions

New Zealand Sea Lions are one of the rarest sea lion species in the world with a population around 12, 000 and the playful marine mammals can be found around the coast of the South Island near Kaikoura on a kayaking tour from Kaiteriteri with Fur Seals or a mind blowing seal swim.


The first time you witness the world’s largest mammal it is likely that you will be left speechless for a few minutes. The four most common types are the Blue Whales, Humpback Whales, Southern Right Whales and Sperm Whales. Partake in some whale watching and witness these playful giants of the ocean playing in the sea from Kaikoura

Reptiles and Frogs

Unlike Australia, there are no snakes or dangerous animals in New Zealand that will kill you. This is good news for those who have a serious fear of creepy crawlies. Tuatara’s deserve a mention here as they are the descendants of reptiles that survived during the dinosaur age.  

While this is by no means an exhaustive list you can definitely impress your travel buddies with some new knowledge of New Zealand’s native wildlife. To find out more about the extraordinary wildlife encounters mentioned in this article head to our New Zealand head experiences page



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