Rare Things in New Zealand That Are Disappearing
Everyone has a snippet of time in the universe. There are things that you can experience now that might be different or totally disappeared even within 100 years. Already, that has happened in New Zealand with tourists once enjoying a walk onto a glacier or soaking in the world’s largest silica terraces. No more. Who knows what experiences you could have today in New Zealand that might be gone in the future? We dabble in the idea in this list of things to see in New Zealand before they disappear.
1. Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers
Shrinking by almost a third since the 1970s, the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers are just a couple of examples of New Zealand’s shrinking mountain glaciers. Even within our lifetime, tours to “New Zealand’s most accessible glaciers” have gone from walking onto the glaciers to exclusively accessed by helicopter. It has been predicted that we could lose many of New Zealand’s glaciers by the end of the century.
2. Kauri – New Zealand’s Largest Trees
Only naturally growing in the northern regions of New Zealand, kauri were already a rare species since their inception. As New Zealand’s largest type of trees, the largest one remaining measuring 51.5m (169ft) high with a circumference of 13.2m (45.3ft), kauri were extensively milled during New Zealand’s colonial era.
Today, the kauri face a threatening disease called kauri dieback, reducing their numbers further. Efforts to stop the spread of kauri dieback are in place with boardwalks, shoe cleaning stations and track closures for walks in kauri forests. With care, the remaining kauri can still be admired today in New Zealand’s kauri forests, but who can say for how long?
3. Kakapo – New Zealand’s Flightless Parrot
The first of many threatened bird species on this list of things to see in New Zealand before they disappear, the kakapo is a large ground-dwelling nocturnal flightless parrot. While in the 1860s, Fiordland surveyor Charlie Douglas described the birds as being so abundant that “you could shake a tree and the kakapo would fall down like apples”, only 202 kakapo are alive today. Vigorous conservation efforts are taking place in New Zealand to keep this unique parrot species alive.
4. Pohutu Geyser
The southern hemisphere’s largest geyser, the Pohutu Geyser erupts around every hour shooting geothermal water some 30m (100ft) into the air. Although visitors can see the marvel today at Te Puia geothermal park in Rotorua, geysers are an aspect of New Zealand’s landscape that have disappeared over the last century due to geothermal power generation. Already, the Pohutu Geyser has been spared as a geothermal well within 1.5km (0.9 miles) of the geyser was closed in recent years. However, with people requiring more and more power, who knows if the Pohutu Geyser will be so lucky in the future?
5. Maui Dolphins – The Smallest Species of Dolphin
One of the world’s most threatened dolphin species, Maui dolphins can only be found on the west coast of the North Island of New Zealand. They are the world’s smallest species of dolphin growing up to 1.5m (4.9ft) long, closely related to the slightly more prolific species, Hector’s dolphin. However, today there is an estimated 57 to 75 Maui dolphins that are older than one year. The New Zealand Department of Conservation has asked for the public to call the DOC hotline if anyone sights them. Learn more in our article, Find the Rare Maui Dolphin.
6. Takahe – The Largest Rail Bird
It was already thought that takahe had disappeared from New Zealand, which were presumed extinct for some 50 years before being rediscovered in Fiordland in 1948. Thanks to New Zealand’s aggressive conservation efforts, the bird population is around 450 and rising. But as a ground-dwelling bird, like so many of New Zealand’s native species, takahe face threats from introduced predators that means they are unlikely to survive unless in a predator-free sanctuary.
7. Yellow-Eyed Penguins – The World’s Rarest Penguin Species
Known to the local Maori as “hoiho”, the yellow-eyed penguin is not only unique to New Zealand but is one of the world’s rarest penguin species. They can only be found on New Zealand’s South Island and the subantarctic islands. While the subantarctic populations are stable, the mainland populations have declined by 65% over the past 20 years. Visitors can admire these majestic penguins from beaches in Dunedin and The Catlins, but it’s important to keep your distance. Follow the advice in the 5 Tips for Watching Wildlife in the Catlins.
8. Black Coral in Milford Sound
Black coral can only usually be seen on a deep-sea dive. In Milford Sound, however, normal dive trips and an underwater observatory in the inky black waters will reveal this rare type of coral. With a dark layer of freshwater rich in tannins from the surrounding forests combined with seawater, Milford Sound has a unique environment for black coral to grow.
9. Surrounding South Pacific Islands
With the largest population of Polynesian people and its position in the South Pacific Ocean, New Zealand is a hub for exploring the South Pacific Islands. However, already with climate change, countries are disappearing under the ocean. For instance, the Marshall Islands and Tuvalu governments have bought land in other areas of the South Pacific for some of their displaced populations. Who knows how long it will be before you can no longer take a tropical trip to the South Pacific Islands from New Zealand?
10. Pink and White Terraces
Finally, a tourist attraction that has already disappeared in the past 140+ years is the Pink and White Terraces. These were thought to be the largest silica sinter deposits on earth before they were buried under the eruption of Mt Tarawera in 1886. While the Pink and White Terraces might be gone forever, the geothermal park that now sits above them, Waimangu Volcanic Valley, offers boat rides over the site where visitors can use an augmented reality app to “rediscover” the terraces.