New Zealand Land Animals
The National Aquarium is fortunate to have exhibits of three iconic New Zealand land based animals.
Scroll through the species below or click on the link to go directly to a specific animal.
Habitats: New Zealand's native bush.
Size: 25-45cm high / 1.3-3.5kg.
Feed: Bugs and insects.
Special Features: When Kiwi couples meet and mate they usually stay together for their entire lives.
Kiwi are flightless birds found only in New Zealand. They have poor eyesight but exceptional hearing and smell. Kiwi have the shortest beaks of all the birds, with external nostrils at the end of their long beaks. They are New Zealand's national icon used internationally as the demonym for New Zealanders.
Kiwi are super-fast runners, and can cover vast distances while navigating difficult terrain. With razor sharp claws, their strength is in their feet. During the day, they dig into burrows to sleep. At night, they forage for bugs and insects. Kiwi can be very territorial, bad tempered and once mature, can kick rogue stoats into the middle of next week!
Five Types of Kiwi
- Brown Kiwi – North Island
- Great Spotted Kiwi / Roroa – northern South Island
- Little Spotted Kiwi – several offshore islands and at Karori Sanctuary in Wellington
- Rowi – Okarito on the West Coast of the South Island
- Tokoeka – Fiordland, the Haast Range, Stewart Island and Kapiti Island
National Aquarium Kiwi
The National Aquarium has reversed day and night in the Kiwi enclosure so you can see them in nocturnal mode. Their habitat is as natural as possible with native plantings and leaf mulch collected regularly from the native bush. Their diet is supplemented with ox heart, rolled oats and special Kiwi vitamins.
Super-sized Kiwi Eggs
Kiwi have the largest egg-to-body weight-ratio in the world, with a mature egg averaging 20% of the female’s weight, weighing in at around 450g (six times the size of a chicken egg). The egg is carried for two to three weeks before being laid, and during the last few days the female will wade in creeks to relieve the weight of the egg. She'll lay one or two eggs in late winter or spring, before leaving them for the male to incubate for three months. He takes full care of them, leaving the nest only briefly to feed.
Chicks do not have an egg tooth like some other birds, so they must kick themselves out of their shell to hatch. Kiwi chicks also do not have down feathers like some other birds, but are covered with soft adult plumage. At 10-12 days old the juvenile Kiwi will leave the burrow alone to hunt for food. At around five months they can adequately defend themselves. They reach adulthood in about a year and can start breeding at about two years of age.
Because Kiwi are flightless, they're easy prey for feral cats, pigs, rats, dogs, stoats and possums. These introduced predators, along with the clearing of native vegetation, have resulted in the decline of Kiwi, which are now an endangered species. About 95% of Kiwi hatched in the wild are killed before they reach maturity. It is only through protection schemes, recovery programmes and raising public awareness that New Zealand's iconic bird can be saved.
Names: Little Penguin (Eudyptula minor) / Kororā
Habitats: New Zealand coastline
Size: Up to 30cm tall, 1.5kg
Feed: Small fish.
Special Features: Little Penguins live to approx seven years in the wild, up to 25 years in captivity.
The Little Penguin is the smallest of all penguins, growing to not often more than 30cm tall. Also know as Little Blues or Fairy Penguins, these charismatic little birds are also found in southern Australia.
Like all penguins, the Little Penguin's wings have evolved over time into flippers used for swimming (not flying). The Little Penguin's head, flippers and upper body are generally blue, while their colouring transitions to a grey-white from their chin to under their belly. They can dive for food up to 60m, but usually only fish around 20m deep.
Like many seabirds, Little Penguins have a long lifespan lasting up to seven years. In captivity, Little Penguins can live up to 25 years old. All the Little Penguins at the National Aquarium have been rescued following serious injury or have disabilities such as blindness or amputations. If they weren't at the aquarium, they simply wouldn't survive in the wild.
Little Penguin Characteristics
The National Aquarium's Little Penguins all have different personalities. Some waddle, some run, some seem to fly underwater! Their lungs are more like a sponge than a bag, and male and female couples mate for life. In late autumn or early winter, they come ashore to nest, which may be 1.5km inland, at 300m elevations.
Little Penguins will nest in rocky crevices, caves, burrows or thick coastal vegetation. In some case, they've even been known to build nests under buildings. Many Little Penguins will return to breed multiple times within 1km from where they themselves were hatched. Two eggs per clutch are standard, with one hatching 2-3 days before the second.
Male and female parents share both incubation and chick-rearing duties. After a month chicks will be the same size as their parents, who need to start venturing out to find food to match their chicks' enormous appetites. By two months old they are fully-developed and they will leave the family nest.
Names: Tuatara (Sphenodon punctatus).
Habitats: New Zealand's offshore islands and of course the National Aquarium.
Size: 20-30cm long.
Feed: Mice, locusts, ox heart and vitamins (in captivity).
Special Features: Tuatara have three eyes and can hold their breath for up to three hours!
Statue-like at first impression, it's true Tuatara love to relax ... a lot. But they're also incredibly active and aggressive predators, and are great climbers. They're only found on New Zealand's offshore islands, and at the National Aquarium.
Unique to New Zealand, the Tuatara is a captivating reptile that few people ever get to see up close. Having survived for more than 225 million years since the age of the dinosaurs, the Tuatara is the only living member of the Rhynchocephalia family and is now very endangered. The National Aquarium has five Tuatara residents.
Tuatara at the National Aquarium
Tuatara are mostly nocturnal, hiding in burrows during daylight. They take 10-12 years to reach maturity and can live for more than 50 years. The Napier Aquarium Tuatara were hatched from eggs taken from the Stephen’s Island lighthouse keeper’s garden in 1979 and are the longest living Tuatara hatched in captivity.
Soundproofed glass and special technology are used at the aquarium to control the humidity, temperature, UV lighting and other conditions that mimic summer and winter, rain and other weather conditions. The Tuatara are fed mice, locusts (bred behind the scenes at the National Aquarium), ox heart and special Tuatara vitamins.
The National Aquarium has a worldwide reputation for its programme of breeding Tuatara in captivity and is part of the national Tuatara Recovery Programme in New Zealand, which breeds, monitors and preserves this fascinating reptile.