Discovery Campervans New Zealand

New Zealand's 7 Favourite Native Animals

New Zealand is one of the most isolated countries on the planet, and with this status has come along a vast array of wildlife that now fondly call it home.

Unique birds, animals and plants have developed here and attract thousands of tourists year upon year. New Zealand is best known for its flightless birds, such as the Kiwi, but visitors shouldn't be tricked into thinking that these are all that is on offer here.

Time magazine has described New Zealand as an "ultimate storehouse for discontinued zoological models". This especially rings true of the direct descendents of prehistoric wildlife that frolic about the countryside, including the tuatara, weta and giant snail.

While visiting New Zealand, there are several species of wildlife keen nature lovers should definitely keep their eyes open for, and these include:

1. Kiwi

The Kiwi is New Zealand's icon and there are a total of 5 species to be seen here. The Kiwi is a nocturnal flightless bird and is characterised by its hair-like feathers, long whiskers and nostrils at the end of its bill.

The best place to see the Kiwi is on Stewart Island on the beautiful Mason Bay beach.

2. Kea

The Kea is a large species of parrot that is olive green in colour and has a large narrow curved grey-brown upper beak. The Kea is one of the only alpine parrots in the world and is known for its intelligence and curiosity.

The Kea can mostly be found in the forested and alpine regions of New Zealand's South Island.

3. Hector's Dolphin

This unique species of dolphin is only found in New Zealand and spans just 1.4 metres in length. Hectors are small, fast and chunky and are characterised by their black beak and rounded dorsal fin.

Hector's Dolphins like to play around the shallow waters of the coastal areas of New Zealand, but are mainly sighted off the coast of the South Island.

4. Sperm Whale

Although they are not unique to New Zealand, the Sperm Whale has a large population nestled in its waters. The sperm whale has the largest brain of any animal, is the largest living toothed animal and also the deepest diving mammal.

A popular location to watch for sperm whales is in Kaikoura, on New Zealand's South Island.

5. Fur Seals

The New Zealand fur seals are easy to recognise, with their pointy nose, long whiskers and visible external ears. Other popular seals spotted along the coast are the Hooker's sea lions, southern elephant seals and leopard seals.

Seal spotting is more popular off the Otago and Kaikoura coasts on the South Island.

6. Yellow-eyed Penguin

The Yellow-eyed penguin is a penguin native to New Zealand and has a pale yellow head and paler yellow iris with black feather shafts.

These cute little penguins are generally found on the South Island, as well as on Stewart, Auckland and Campbell Islands. Tourists especially love the colony on the Otago Peninsula, which allows visitors to get very close to these clever little creatures.

7. Tuatara

While some reptiles scare many people, the Tuatara is simply too cute not to make the list. The Tuatara is greenish brown, measure up to 80cm and boast a spiny crest along their backs.

They are rarely sighted but are sometimes seen on the islands off New Zealand's North Island.

Christine Barton