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New Zealand

The New Zealand fauna is not vary broad and varied, but it does have some unique animals to the world such as the Kiwi (pictured above), which has also now become the name for its national population – a New Zealander is also known as a Kiwi. The Kiwi is classified as a bird, but do not fly, they barely even have wings, and for a long time it was though to be a mammal. Kiwis have hairs instead of feathers, and developed thick and ultra strong legs, so they can walk or run through the vegetation without problems. They are nocturnal animals and hate the daylight, and almost faced extinction like the Moa, a bird that looked a bit like a giant Emu, or a giant Kiwi, and reached up to 3 metres high. The Kiwi does not have any predators that are mammals, as until its discovery, mammals did not exist in New Zealand.

The main predator of the Kiwi are birds such as eagles and falcons, but the kiwi ha developed an ability to defend itself in the closed forests or bush, such as coming out only at night, which minimises the chances of it being seen by other animals. With the beginning of the colonisation, forests were destroyed, and for that reason the kiwi became more vulnerable to attack of predators, which almost saw the kiwi go into extinction. The kiwis don’t defend themselves with their beaks, but instead use their super sharp claws. Kiwis are aggressive animals, and you would not be able to hold one in your hand without receiving some deep cuts. In the forest the Kiwi is very protective of its territory, so much so that they might even chase try to chase a human away, they come running and screaming like a steam train. There are 5 different species of Kiwis. The Kiwi has become a national symbol and can be found on both the north and south island.

The Possum is one of the small numbers of land mammals that live in New Zealand. They were introduced by the Polynesians, who brought them as a source of food for the long journeys, but they have now turned into pests as they have no natural predators. They are a real nuisance to farmers as they eat crops and cause great damage. It came to such a critical point that the New Zealand government paid $1 for every possum that someone killed. Even shops began to produced and promote possum fur products such sweaters, bags, hats. While in NZ the possum is seen as a pest, in Australia they are protected, but Australia has many predators such as snakes, which are not found in NZ.

The Tuatara is another animal that is only found in New Zealand. It’s a reptile, a descendent of the dinosaur age from 225 million years ago, and for this reason it is sometimes consider a “living fossil”. They are protected creatures and run the risk of extinction as there are only an estimated 100 thousand left in existence. They are very vulnerable to predators, one of them being one from their own specie, where the male will eat the eggs and even the offspring. They are also attacked by birds and other predators, and reproduce at a slow rate, where the deaths out number the birth. They are cold blooded creatures and live up to around 100 years. Their favourite meal are insects.

 Other Animals found in New Zealand:

The Kea is New Zealand’s mountain parrot and lives in the alpine environment, mostly found in the South Island. They are very controversial birds where they are considered mostly vegetarian, feasting occasionally on insects but having a flexibility of diet that extend to even live sheep, and can also be seen ripping into the rubber of car windscreen and doors and ski field equipment. They have been a protected species since 1986, but only after they investigated all attacks on sheep and removed all problem birds. Ski field operators were encouraged to make their equipment proof against the kea’s very power beak.  The population is estimated to be of between 1000 and 5000 birds. It is considered one of the most intelligent birds in the world.

Gannets are found on islands off the coast of New Zealand, and can be seen in around 28 different colonies. Some of these colonies can be visited such as the one at Hawk’s Bay. They make their nest out of sea weed and have an great diving ability for fish.

Yellow Eyed Penguim - Originally from Antarctica, they travel to NZ as well as the coast of South America. In New Zealand the only inhabit the south Island, and can mostly be found from Invercargill to Christchurch. An adult penguin can reach up to 68 cm, weighing around 5 to 8 kilos.

The fur Seal is a type of seal that can dive deeper and stay underwater for longer than the normal seal. They inhabit the whole coast of NZ and have an estimated population of 60 thousand. The adult male can reach up to 1.60m and weigh up to 160 kilos. They feed on fish and crustaceans, with its main predator being the shark and killer whales.

The Bottlenose Dolphin is found through out the waters of New Zealand, but live in separate groups 1000 km apart. They are very playful and curious, and can reach up to 4 metres in length, weigh 550 kilos, and consume more than 15 kilos of fish per day. There is several tour groups make visits to colonies, and with some you can even swim with them. They are mammals and can live up to around 40 to 50 years.

The Sperm Wale inhabit the deep oceans of the South Island, and can be seen especially off the coast of Kiakoura, where you can take a whale sighting tour. They can reach up to 20 mentres in length and weigh up tp 70 tons. They have as their biggest predators the killer whale, sharks, and the giant squid. They live up to 60 years and can give birth to a calf every 15 months. They can dive up to 3km deep.

To Learn more about the birds found in New Zealand, visit this website (will open in a new window).
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