Endangered Animals in NZ
February 16, 2023

Endangered Animals in NZ

New Zealand is home to an array of endangered animals. Conservation efforts are in place to protect these unique species and ensure their survival for future generations. Read this blog to learn more.

Endangered definition

Endangered species risk extinction due to habitat destruction, overhunting, pollution, climate change, or other factors. These species have a decreased population size and reproductive rate, making them vulnerable to further decline and eventual extinction. 

What is the classification for endangered species? 

Species are classified through the following questions: 

  • What’s the current population size? This can be the number of breeding adults or the area of occupied habitat.
  • How much is the population estimated to rise or fall over the next three generations or ten years (whichever is longer)?
  • If the population is stable, has it declined in the past?
  • Is the population state a result of human-induced effects?

Nationally endangered species are defined as facing a high risk of extinction in the short term.

What is the difference between endangered and threatened?

Sourced from DOC website

A threatened species is an overarching term that includes various risk categories, with endangered species being one of those risk categories. It is estimated that 30% of New Zealand’s biodiversity falls under the threatened category. Here is the system used in New Zealand:

How many species are endangered in NZ?

Currently, 7,500 New Zealand animal and plant species are considered nationally endangered. 

Endangered birds in NZ

Here are some of the most critically endangered bird species in New Zealand

  • South Island Takahe – under 440
  • Antipodean Albatross - 5,100 breeding pairs
  • Gisborne Albatross - 7,400 breeding pairs
  • Kakapo – just over 259
  • Orange-fronted Parakeet – estimated 360
  • Chatham Island Black Robin - 300
  • Tāiko - less than 200
  • Oystercatcher - 311
  • Salvin’s Albatross - unknown, roughly 36 pairs
  • Fairy Tern - fewer than 40
  • Black Stilt – estimated 140
  • White Heron - 100-120

Endangered Marine life

90% of sea birds and 22% of marine mammals are at risk of extinction. 

  • New Zealand Sea Lion (Phocarctos hookeri): Population estimated at 12,000
  • Maui's Dolphin (Cephalorhynchus hectori maui): Population estimated at fewer than 48-65 over 1 year old 
  • Southern Right Whale (Eubalaena australis): Population estimated at around 3,500 individuals 
  • New Zealand Fur Seal (Arctocephalus forsteri): Population estimated at approximately 20,000

Why is NZ biodiversity under threat

Habitat loss and fragmentation: The conversion of native habitats to farmland, urban development, and other land uses has caused widespread habitat loss and fragmentation of native habitats in New Zealand. This has resulted in the loss of essential food, shelter, and breeding sites for native species and the barriers to migration and dispersal of species. 

Invasive species: The introduction of invasive species such as rats, cats, possums, and other mammals, as well as certain plants, has caused significant damage to native species in New Zealand. These invasive species can out-compete native species for food and habitat and spread diseases and parasites. 

Pollution: Pollutants such as agricultural chemicals, industrial waste, and domestic sewage have significantly impacted native species in New Zealand. Pollutants can cause changes to water chemistry, which can affect the health of aquatic species. They can also accumulate in soil and vegetation, leading to the poisoning of native species. 

Climate change: Climate change is expected to significantly impact many native species in New Zealand. Changes in temperature and rainfall patterns can cause changes in the availability of food, shelter, and breeding sites. 

Over-Exploitation: Over-exploitation of natural resources, such as fishing and hunting, can significantly impact native species in NZ.

Why does NZ have so many invasive species?

New Zealand's isolation from other land masses has left it vulnerable to the introduction of invasive species. Introduced species have been able to establish themselves and thrive without natural predators. Human-mediated introductions have also been a significant factor in introducing invasive species. This includes intentional introductions for commercial, recreational, or aesthetic reasons and accidental introductions through the movement of goods, people, and animals. 

Some examples of invasive species in New Zealand include brushtail possums, rabbits, rats, mice, stoats, cats, deer, ferrets, and wasps. Invasive species can have a detrimental effect on native ecosystems and biodiversity. They can compete with native species for food and resources, spread disease, and disrupt ecosystems by altering the balance of predator-prey relationships. Pests such as possums are known to eat native bird eggs and chicks. Invasive species can also cause economic damage, as they can reduce crop yields, increase costs for land management, and reduce the value of recreational areas.

Conservation Efforts

Predator Control: The New Zealand Department of Conservation (DOC) has implemented various measures to control predators and protect native species. These include trapping, poisoning, and aerial control of introduced predators such as possums, rats, and stoats. 

Reintroduction of Species: DOC has reintroduced endangered species to the wild, such as the kaka and the takahe. 

Habitat Restoration: The New Zealand government has been actively restoring native habitats by controlling weeds, planting native species, and removing invasive predators. 

Marine Protection: To protect threatened marine species, the New Zealand government has established a network of marine reserves around the country.

Research and Monitoring Programs: DOC funds a range of research and monitoring programs to assess the health and population of native species and the threats they face. 

Education and Awareness: DOC runs a range of education and awareness programs to promote the conservation of native species and to encourage the public to take action to protect them.

Captive Breeding: Organisations have been working on breeding endangered species in captivity as part of a conservation effort.


In conclusion, the endangered animals of New Zealand are a significant part of our environment, and we must continue to do all we can to protect them and ensure their survival. From increasing public awareness to creating and enforcing protective legislation, it is our responsibility to take action and protect these species for future generations. We must also recognise the importance of these species and their role in maintaining the delicate balance of our ecosystems. Without these animals, New Zealand’s environment, biodiversity and uniqueness would suffer greatly.