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New Zealand's Otherworldly Creatures You Need To See To Believe

While famous for the kiwi, the short, flightless bird that lends it's name to the people, New Zealand is home to many wondrous creatures you won't find anywhere else.

These isolated islands at the bottom of the earth have given rise to some 'otherworldly' creatures you'll need to see to believe!


Not actually a lizard, the tuatara (Two-ah-tar-ah) belongs to one of the last surviving species of reptile that once walked at the feet of dinosaurs. Adults can grow up to 20 inches (50cm) long and weigh around 53oz (1.5kg). 

Beyond being a prehistoric reptile, the tuatara are unusual in that they actually thrive in colder temperatures. They don’t particularly enjoy the more tropical climates of around 77 ॰F (25॰C). On average, tuatara can live around 80 years, but it’s not uncommon for them to live over 100.

They also have a third eye on the top of their head, which is only visible in younger tuatara. This third eye may be useful in absorbing vitamin D through UV rays, as well as sensing changes in light and dark to help them avoid predators from the sky.

Kereru | New Zealand Woodpigeon

The kereru (Care-rare-roo)  are proof that not all birds are graceful. Relatively widespread across New Zealand, both in cities and the country, kereru have a distinctive white chest, and iridescent blue/green feathers.

Their wings make a distinctive ‘whooshing’ sound as they dive past.

After eating a lot of fruit, kereru love to sit in the sun. In warmer weather, the fruit can ferment inside of their crop - which is where they store food before digesting it. The aftermath? Drunk woodpigeons.

Whakahao | New Zealand Sea Lion

It’s fairly common to find sea lions basking on a sandy beach. How about hiking through the bush? Whakahao (Far-car-hoe) enjoy spending time in forests, and will even venture 1.2 miles (up to 2km) inland to give birth or seek shelter.

With adult males weighing in at nearly 1000 pounds (450kg) whakahao are New Zealand’s largest living animal. Their only natural predator is the great white shark.

Pekapeka | Long-Tailed Bat

When is a bird, not a bird? When it’s a bat that wins the Bird of the Year Competition. We’d better explain.

Forest and Bird holds an annual Bird of the Year competition to highlight the conservation status of our native species. In a controversial move, the long-tailed bat was allowed entry in 2021 and ended up winning the contest.

Pekapeka (peck-ah-peck-ah) weigh just 0.35oz (10g), and are New Zealand’s only native land mammals. Living in dense forests of large, old trees, they emerge around dusk to eat mosquitos, flies and moths.


This alpine parrot is an icon of the outdoors. Known for being incredibly cheeky and curious, kea (key-ah) spend a lot of time on the ground foraging for food. That may well mean going through your backpack, as kea have been observed using tools and solving logical puzzles to get what they want.

While mainly olive green, when a kea takes flight you’ll be dazzled by the bright orange feathers under their wings. You’ll find kea living in mountain-side forests in the South Island… much like one of the water sources we use in Broken Shed.

So much more to discover...

Being isolated from most of the world preserved New Zealand’s weird and wonderful creatures for the longest time. This list has barely scratched the surface of all the animals you can only see here, that make New Zealand feel like a different world

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