New Zealand is a country that has been isolated for a very long time - ever since it split off from the supercontinent of Gondwana. It was a land devoid of normal predators until the first humans arrived just 700 years ago. New Zealand did not have mammals (apart from some small bats and marine life like seals). It was a land ruled by birds, and those birds occupied the various niches.

If one would like to see the landscapes and wildlife in New Zealand - by far the largest national park is Fiordland National Park. It is a dazzling land of mountains, virgin forests, native birds, lakes, and fiords. Alternatively, explore New Zealand's marine life with a whale watching tour at the stunning coastal town of Kaikoura.

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The Need For a Wildlife Sanctuary in New Zealand

"ZEALANDIA has a vision to restore this valley to the way it was before the arrival of humans. With its 8.6km fence keeping out introduced mammallian predators, birds such as the tūī, kākā and kererū, once extremely rare in the region, are all now common sights around central Wellington"

Zealandia

New Zealand once had the largest known bird in the world (the moa), the largest eagle (the Haast eagle), and many unusual birds that had evolved in isolation without mammals like cats, weasels, stoats, dogs, wolves, and other animals preying on them. The arrival of humans to New Zealand and the introduction of animals changed all that.

  • First Humans: The Native Maori People Arrived In New Zealand 700 Years Ago

Lacking any defense against these threats, many of New Zealand's most unique species of birds have long extinct. Many only cling on now thanks to very intensive conservation efforts.

Related: New Zealand Is Reopening: Now Its Time To Visit Hobbiton

The Zealandia Wildlife Sanctuary

Perhaps the best place to see the unique wildlife of New Zealand together with some of its most vulnerable species is at the Zealandia wildlife sanctuary. Zealand is a protected natural area in Wellington - the nation's capital.

It is a fully fenced ecosanctuary designed to keep cats, weasels, and other predators out. The forest within the sanctuary is being restored and covers an area of 225 hectares. It is an effort to allow the natural ecosystems to recover by minimizing the impact of introduced flora and fauna.

Zealandia:

  • Size: 225 Hectares
  • Surrounded: By A Pest-Exclusion Fence
  • Location: Wellington (the Capital)

It has become a significant tourist attraction and has aided in the recovery of some of the native birds in the area like the tui and kākā.

The pest-exclusion fence is central to creating an ecological island. It is designed to exclude fourteen species of non-native land mammals and has been successful in excluding all but the smallest of pests - the house mouse. It is of great conservation significance, being a world first. It comes with an underground foot to prevent animals from burrowing underneath the fence.

The fence is designed to exclude cats, black rats, fallow deer, ferrets, goats, hares, hedgehogs, mice, Norway rats, pigs, rabbits, possums, stoats, and weasels.

  • Kiwis: There Are over 150 Kiwi Birds In the Sanctuary
  • Species: Over 40 Species of Native Wildlife

In the sanctuary, one can find some of the rarest and most unique New Zealand birds including kiwis, kakas, saddlebacks, Takahes, and wekas. It also boasts the only wild mainland population of tuatara (a "living fossil" and not a lizard that it resembles). In total it is home to over 40 rare species of native wildlife.

Visiting Zealandia

One can choose to either be led by a guide or tour around at one's own pace. While most people spend 2-3 hours in the sanctuary, one can easily spend the whole day in there wondering along the 32 kilometers (20 miles) of tracks

  • Opening Hours: 9:00 am - 5:00 pm (Last Entry 4.00 pm)
  • General Admission: Adults $23.00 NZD ($16.00)
  • Kiwi: Kiwis are Nocturnal, So If One Would Like To See Them, Consider A Nighttime Tour

Related: What To Know Of Exploring New Zealand's Famed Southern Alps

Guided Tours Of Zealandia

A full range of tours are offered in Zealandia these include tours by day, twilight, night, and dawn (different birds are active at different times). There are also private tours, tours for kids, and photo tours.

Zealandia By Day Tour:

This is their most popular tour and one will join one of their experienced guides and embark on a trip into what New Zealand once was. Hear about the birdsongs, habitats, and local flora to track down even the rarest of our unique animals.

New Zealand has some of the most unique biodiversity and advanced conservation techniques in the world. Soak up the beautiful scenery while learning more about New Zealand's unique ecological history.

  • Duration: 2 hours
  • Departing: 10am, 11am, 1pm
  • Tours Available: Daily
  • Maximum Capacity: 12 people per tour
  • Adult: $55 NZD ($29 USD) / Child (ages 5-17): $27.50 NZD ($15 USD)

Next: New Zealand Is Expensive: How To Discover It On a Budget