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New Zealand houses a huge variety of animals shaped by the unique climate, geology and global isolation of the country. Wildlife encounters on a hike around New Zealand will be one of your most rewarding and intriguing experiences.
Before the arrival of humans the country was mostly free of mammals, except those that could swim (seals, sea lions and whales) or fly (bats). This lead to an abundance of insects and birds, including an unusually large number of flightless birds with no natural predators - the kiwi, the weka, the moa (now extinct), and the kakapo.
The lack of predators has also afforded a proliferation of ‘pre-historic’ species with 60 varieties of lizard and two species of tuatara (reptiles resembling lizards) – New Zealand’s own living dinosaurs.
Known for its dawn chorus, the New Zealand bush pulses with the sights and sounds of the native flighted birds. This includes the treasured kakapo, a nocturnal parrot that hops like a sparrow and growls like a dog. Tourists often photograph the tui which is a melodious bird with a tuft of white feathers under its chin, and the mischievous kea, a mountain parrot that loves to snoop in campers’ backpacks, or grapple with the wipers on car windows.
However, the true icon of New Zealand birds and the most unusual, is of course the kiwi - a flightless wonder with hair-like feathers, long whiskers and nostrils at the end of its bill for sniffing out food.
A quarter of New Zealand’s birds are found nowhere else on the planet but unfortunately the European settlers brought pigs, ferrets, stoats, mice, rats, dogs, cats, sheep, cattle and many other mammals which all seriously impacted the original New Zealand fauna, driving many historic species to extinction.
New Zealand therefore adopts some of the world’s strictest biosecurity laws with rigorous border control measures. Do not leave an apple in your carry-on luggage!