An Introduction to New Zealand Animals (Part 2)


We are often asked what animals can be seen when visiting New Zealand? Well, as we learned in ‘Part 1’ of the series, New Zealand was almost exclusively populated by birds both before and after humans settled.

An Introduction to New Zealand Animals (Part 2)

In this article - New Zealand Animals (Part 2), we look at our present day oceans and the marine mammals that call it home, introduced land-dwelling species and examine some of the more ancient creatures that still call New Zealand home.  

In the beginning there were....

  • three small bat species (the only terrestrial mammals),
  • geckos, skinks, three species of frogs, and the tuatara – an iguana-like animal directly descended from the dinosaurs.
  • Freshwater fish were relatively rare, comprising about thirty species, including eels, which became a valuable source of food for Maori.
  • native birds as per Part 1.

New Zealand's Marine Animals

Seals, dolphins, and whales abound in New Zealand’s coastal waters. In Kaikoura on the East Coast of the South Island, visitors can see humpback and sperm whales from boats, snorkel amongst bottlenose dolphins, and upon returning to shore, walk through a seal colony, all in the course of a morning. The Hectors dolphin, the world's smallest dolphin, is endemic to New Zealand and is found in the colder waters off the South Island. New Zealand has a reputation as an anglers' paradise; with swiftly flowing rivers teeming with salmon and trout. Over 23 freshwater fish species have been introduced, some very successfully, since the late 19th century by the European settlers.

Introduced Species

Other introduced species include the kiore, a rat which was brought to New Zealand by the first Polynesian settlers. European settlers introduced pigs, goats, sheep, cattle, freshwater fish such as salmon and trout, opossums, rats, rabbits, stoats, and deer. Many of these introduced species, (deer, rabbits, opossums, and goats in particular) adapted so well to the bountiful environment that they rapidly became pests, and have had to be controlled to keep from proliferating.

New Zealand Opossum

Opossums are a major problem as they have bred to a huge population (70 to 100 million) and consume vast quantities of new foliage (approximately 21,000 tonnes per day), killing trees and shrubs, particularly native flora. The department of Conservation put a lot of time and effort keeping these beasties under control.  

Chat to our Travel Specialists about adding some nature experiences  to your trip - they'll listen to your dream-trip must-do's and build an itinerary that's tailor-made to your desires.

Head over here to view some of our Hiking tours which get you into the country with the most opportunity to experience the wildlife.

For further information Contact us here, or find out more about what we can offer on our website. Written by Brent Narbey You also like to read 'Part 1' New Zealand Birds.


Steve Taylor
Steve Taylor
: 3 Jul 2014 (Last updated: 25 Feb 2022)

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