5 Cute Animals You Can Get Up Close & Personal With In New Zealand!

5 Cute Animals You Can Get up Close & Personal with in New Zealand

Like Australia, New Zealand has a couple of animals that are unique to its islands.

New Zealand: the land of farmstays, Lord of the Rings, and gorgeous landscapes. We sometimes forget that that’s not all there is to this land further South than the Land Down Under. As with Australia, there are more than a few animals which are endemic to the country — that is, they either cannot be found anywhere else in the world or are extremely rare. So with this list, let us look at some of the incredibly adorable animals that you can get up close with on your trip down to New Zealand:

1. Hector’s Dolphin

Image credit: Gregory Smith

Hector’s Dolphins are the smallest and rarest species of ocean dolphins in the world, and are distinctly identifiable from the black band on their heads and their especially round dorsal fins. As adorable as they are, they are an endangered species, with only an estimated 7,000 of them left in the wild. They are also the only cetacean native exclusively to New Zealand, with most of them living along the coasts of South Island.

Where to find them:

As mentioned, Hector’s Dolphins are coastal dolphins with the largest populations living along the coasts of South Island, especially in the bays. They can sometimes be spotted in the North Island though sightings are rare. The best way to interact with these dolphins will be to take a guided cruise out to the bays where you can even get to swim with them! Awesome or what?

2. Kea Parrot

Image credit: Bernard Spragg

Dubbed the “Clowns of the Mountains”, Keas are alpine parrots famous for their intelligence and mischievous behaviours. Because Kea Parrots have elongated beaks, they are often filmed wrecking the rubber bits on cars, and on occasion, even peoples’ shoes. They are also known to forage for leftovers at ski parks, and are intelligent enough to break into large rubbish containers in search of food. If you’re not convinced, just check out their hilarious antics on YouTube.

Where to find them:

Mt. Cook, Milford Sound, Arthur’s Pass and more. Essentially, all alpine regions of South Island. They can sometimes be spotted even in the lowlands.

3. Blue Penguin

Image credit: Andrea Schaffer

The Blue Penguins of New Zealand are the world’s smallest species of penguins (NZ has a penchant for small animals), standing only 25cm tall and weighing about 1kg. Also known as Little Penguin or Korora in Maori, these little fellas have colonies all over New Zealand’s coastlines. However, their numbers have been dwindling due to climate change and other man-made factors such as the introduction of other predatory animals and coastal development. The best time to see them will be at dusk as they return to their nests after a day of fishing out at sea.

Image credit (L-R): Julie; Andrea Schaffer

Where to find them:

Blue Penguin colonies are all over the coasts of the main islands. But their numbers are more abundant in the offshore islands where they are protected from other predatory animals like dogs and ferrets.

4. Kakapo

The Kakapo is the world’s heaviest parrot species and is endemic to New Zealand. A flightless bird, it relies on its excellent ability to walk and climb trees in search for food. It is also likely to be the world’s longest-living bird with an average lifespan of 90 years! However, the Kakapo is critically endangered, with only about 150 to 160 of them left.

Where to find them:

Because of their status as extremely rare animals, all remaining Kakapos have been moved to specific offshore islands. There are, however, opportunities to volunteer and care for the Kakapos during their breeding period (which only occurs once every two to three years) and in the summer months (November to March). Check out New Zealand’s Department of Conservation website to find out how you can do so!

5. Adorable sheep

In a country where there are more sheep than humans, how can you miss out on these cute and cuddly babies? For a country with three million people, the sheep to human ratio is close to 10:1! Originally introduced into the country to provide food for settlers, lamb soon became a major export from New Zealand, and remains so today. Unsurprisingly, there are about 16,000 farms in the country, with plenty of them offering farmstay opportunities to visitors.

Where to find them:

There are plenty of farmstays available on both North Island and South Island where you can interact with the farm animals and run a few farm errands during the stay. Activities available on the farm include milking, wool shearing and feeding amongst others! It’s time to escape the city and enjoy a short stay at the idyllic countryside.

Bonus cutie (that you can’t really get up close with)!

Fur Seal

Image credit: Bernard Spragg

You can find the Southern/ New Zealand Fur Seals mainly on rocky shores along the South Island coast and some offshore islands. They may look adorable and cuddly, but they have sharp teeth and can move very fast. Therefore, we don’t recommend you get up close to them, although observing them from a distance may bring joy to kids and adults alike. At one point, fur seals were almost hunted into extinction for their fur but New Zealand has since placed them under the protection act; their numbers are now recovering healthily!

About Author

John Fan
John Fan

John is a coffee-reliant human being. It will not be wise to disturb the exhibit before he has had his morning coffee. A wanderlust confined by financial and social limitations, it is not uncommon to hear him whine about his desire to travel on a regular basis – more than 20 times a week by some accounts. He is also fairly interested in cars, long drives and football amongst other things.


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