New Zealand Animals: Unique Wildlife and Marine Mammals

A percentage of New Zealand animals are only found in or around New Zealand and nowhere else on earth. The only native mammals are bats and some marine mammals but there are plenty of native birds, lizards, frogs, fish, and insects.

Tuatara at Zealandia, Wellington, North Island, New Zealand

Tuatara at Zealandia, Wellington, North Island, New Zealand

Examples of New Zealand Wildlife

Reptiles and Frogs

Many of the animals found in New Zealand have retained their original forms from ancient times. There is a frog that has live young and are crickets without wings (Weta), an alternative to mice, that forages on the forest floor.

The reptiles and frogs animal group (herpetofauna) includes the tuatara, lizards such as skinks and geckos, and the four species of native frog (pepeketua) classified within this group.


The sea around the islands has a diverse and rich variety of marine mammals, a lot of the larger ones are often visible from the coast, such as dolphins, porpoises and whales.

Examples that are unique to the NZ waters are Hector's Dolphins, Māui Dolphins, Beaked Whales, and New Zealand Sea Lions and fur seals. Some other seals that are occasional visitors to the shores include the Southern Elephant Seal and Leopard Seal.

Hector's Dolphin playing in the sea at Porpoise Bay, Southland

Hector's Dolphin jumping out of the water, Southland, South Island coast, New Zealand


Those species of whales and seals that almost resulted in extinction by commercial whaling and sealing over the last two centuries were the indigenous seals and the Humpback and Right Whales.

Even though commercial whaling does not now pose such a significant threat to the welfare of native New Zealand animals, present day threats to the population include global climate change, habitat degradation, and fishing operations through the accumulation of pollutants in the seas and entanglement in fishing nets/gear.


There are over 60 species of sharks in the oceans around NZ with sizes ranging from the 12mtr long Whale Shark to the tiny 27cm long Pigmy Shark.


New Zealand native animals includes 35 native species of fish although most people wouldn't know more than a couple of them to name. Being imported, the trout is not among the native species of fish.

Seal New Zealand Animal


The only truly land mammals native to NZ are three species of bats: the Long-tailed Bat, the Greater Short-tailed Bat, and the Lesser Short-tailed Bat. All these species are under threat of extinction due to decline in population and are a high priority for conservation efforts. Unfortunately the Greater Short-tailed Bat is thought to actually be extinct already.


There is a population of invertebrates that play a vital role in maintenance of populations of native birds and ecosystem processes. Unfortunately many New Zealand invertebrates face extinction in the same way that the New Zealand native birds are under threat.

Predatory mammals did not exist here before humans and their arrival had a devastating effect on many of the bird population because they are flightless and easily caught!

Predators in New Zealand - Native New Zealand Birds - Wildlife Parks in NZ

List of Animals Found in New Zealand

This list provided below is in no way to be considered exhaustive but it provides a selection of wildlife you may catch a glimpse of during your visit. Some you are more likely to see than others, and the New Zealand Kiwi which you may only be able to see in a controlled and protected environment.

Weka Flightless Bird New Zealand South Island   Weka Bird with Young in South Island New Zealand


Basking Shark

Bellbird (Korimako)

Birds in New Zealand

Black Robin

Black Stilt (Kaki)

Black Swan

Bluebottle Jellyfish

Blue Duck (Whio)

Blue Penguin

Blue Whale

Bottlenose Dolphin

Common Dolphin

Cormorant / Shag - 12 Species

Dinornis (Moa)

Dotterel - New Zealand Dotterel / Tūturiwhatu

Duck (Blue Duck) (Whio)

Dusky Dolphin

Eels - Short Fin Eels and Long Fin Eels

Short Fin Eels in a stream at Waihi, North Island, New Zealand

Short Fin Eels in a stream at Waihi, North Island, New Zealand

Fin Whale

Fur Seal (Kekeno)


Greater Short-tailed Bat

Hector's Dolphins - Porpoise Bay

Humpback Whale

Jellyfish (Bluebottle Jellyfish)

Kauri Snail


Kekeno (Fur Seal)


Killer Whale / Orca


Lesser Short-tailed Bat

Little Penguin

Long-tailed Bat

Māui Dolphin (only around 50 left and approaching extinction)

Moa (Dinornis)

New Zealand Dotterel / Tūturiwhatu

New Zealand Fur Seal (Kekeno)

New Zealand Sea Lions

Oystercatcher (Variable Oystercatcher)

Penguin (Little Penguin / Little Blue Penguins) Oamaru

Penguin (Yellow-eyed Penguin hoiho) Porpoise Bay

Pigmy Shark

Pilot Whale

Portuguese Man o War (Bluebottle Jellyfish)

Powelliphanta snail

Predatory Animals in New Zealand (Introduced)

Right Whale

Seal (Kekeno)

New Zealand Seal

Shag / Cormorant - 12 Species


Skink New Zealand Wildlife

South Island Takahē

Sperm Whale

Spoonbill / Kōtuku ngutupapa


Swan (Black Swan)


Takahē Native New Zealand Bird

South Island Takahe at Zealandia Urban Ecosanctuary in Wellington, New Zealand

Torea (Variable Oystercatcher)


Tui - Koko

Variable Oystercatcher


Whale (Blue Whale)

Whale (Fin Whale)

Whale (Humpback Whale)

Whale (Killer/Orca)

Whale Shark

Whale (Pilot)

Whale (Sperm Whale)

Whio (Blue Duck)

White Shark

Yellow-eyed Penguin (Hoiho) - Porpoise Bay

Other Sites of Interest

Mount Tutu Eco- Sanctuary is a secluded sanctuary in a New Zealand rainforest!

Big bird outside International Airport Hotel Auckland