Protecting New Zealand's rarest of the rare.

Current Projects

Threatened Plant Breeders Network

Work is now underway to set up and run a trial of coordinated cultivation of the endangered herbs Lepidium banksii (coastal peppercress) and Leptinella filiformis (slender button daisy). The trial will be a component of a strategy for the ex-situ management of New Zealand plants, being developed by the Department of Conservation and the Botanic Gardens of Australia and New Zealand. This work is undertaken thanks to the support of Stout Trust.


NZ Fairy Tern

We are working with WWF-NZ, the International Centre for Birds of Prey, Exeter University, and Auckland University to develop high quality artificial fairy tern eggs. The eggs are ready and DOC will trial them this season. These high quality dummy eggs will replace wild eggs removed for artificial incubation. The dummies must be life-like to ensure parents remain on the nest to care for the chicks that are returned. This critical intervention reduces the loss of viable eggs to predation or storm events. 

Eyelash Seaweed

ESF fears for the fate of eyelash seaweed following the Kaikoura earthquake and seabed uplift. We will coordinate with Canterbury scientists studying the changes to Kaikoura’s sealife, in the hopes that they will locate it sometime in the future.

Kaikoura Museum plans to develop a display of local features, including the critically endangered eyelash seaweed which was only known to occur at two, now destroyed, sites.

Eyelash seaweed is unique in being very similar to some of the oldest known fossils of multi-cellular organisms.


Coastal Peppercress

Seedlings of Nelson’s critically endangered coastal peppercress are being grown in Dunedin in an innovative approach to safeguard the species from extinction. Seeds were sown by staff at the Dunedin Botanic Garden's high-tech propagation facility, in December 2015. The plants grew well and are now located outdoors in the main native garden. 

Dunedin Botanic Garden staff and other expert Dunedin growers have found these vulnerable plants are still subject to heavy aphid and white butterfly caterpillar attack, despite the cooler climate, but they have managed to set seed without pest control. Dunedin growers are concentrating on maximising seed for minimal effort. While Nelson growers are producing seed by combating the insect pests. DOC is spreading handfuls of seeds at suitable sites around Nelson’s coast.

Chesterfield Skink

A further $5,000 will be added to $50,000 of ESF funding for protection of the critically endangered Chesterfield skink. The Department of Conservation is currently drafting a management plan to utilise this funding for the skink’s protection.

An expert advisory team is being set up including the ESFNZ, DOC, Auckland Zoo and lizard experts.

Lettuce Liverwort

A world first

ESF is creating the world's first conservation programme for a liverwort, following a plea from scientists that the lettuce liverwort is in serious danger of extinction.

This liverwort is a distinctive looking non-vascular plant, a bit like a tiny lettuce and the size of a fingernail. Only 36 individuals were found at a single site near Kaikoura - the entire New Zealand and global population.  The population has nearly halved in the last several years.

It is hoped that the site is still intact following the Kaikoura Earthquake, and we are waiting on the road north of Kaikoura to open, so that Mike Thorsen (ERA Ecology NZ Ltd) can check if the liverwort has survived. Then we hope he can continue with the planned protection work.

The Lettuce liverwort conservation factsheet (pdf 2.1MB) describes what is being planned and who is helping to protect this species from extinction.

Te Kopahou Reserve (Red Rocks)

ERA Ecology NZ Ltd has developed a restoration plan for us for Te Kopahou Reserve on Wellington’s south coast. Wellington City Council is now incorporating our plan into their greater reserve management plan. We look forward to implementing the plan once it is released in a couple of months.

Tuatara (Sphenodon punctatus)

ESF is assisting Zealandia Ecosanctuary with funding the recovery of the rare tuatara. Zealandia Ecosanctuary breeds tuatara in captivity for reintroductions into the wild on mainland New Zealand, and undertakes conservation advocacy through public accessibility of tuatara.

The Tuatara (Sphenodon punctatus) conservation factsheet (pdf 4.8MB) explains the latest research and developments in tuatara protection. 

What is being done?

Tuatara were first released into Zealandia Ecosanctuary (Karori Wildlife Sanctuary) in December 2005. This was also the first release of tuatara into the wild on mainland New Zealand, having been functionally absent for over 200 years. Natural tuatara breeding was soon observed in 2007.

By November 2011, tuatara juveniles raised at Victoria University from eggs taken from the sanctuary, were returned to Zealandia Ecosanctuary into specially built display enclosures. These enclosures were purpose built for the outdoors, exposing the animals to natural environmental fluctuations – an innovative approach. There was 100% survival, and seven out of the 15 juveniles were released into the wild in 2014, to minimise conflict in the nurseries as they grew.

However, that same year, staff were disappointed to find the plywood enclosures starting to rot. ESF was delighted to be able to provide funding for the redesign and replacement of both enclosures. 

How can you get involved?

Learn more about tuatara (DOC website)
Visit and support Zealandia (Zealandia website)
Visit and support your local ecosanctuary (Orokonui Ecosanctuary website)

Maui Dolphin

It will take a coherent strategy combining conservation action, industry and political support, business involvement, funding and public support to prevent the extinction of Māui dolphin.

What is the Endangered Species Foundation doing?

We are supporting the Māui dolphin by:

1. Presenting an un-biased view of Māui dolphin conservation activity.

2. Having an observer on the Research Advisory Group which is involved in
evaluating Māui dolphin research.

3. Raising funds to support activities that help the fishing industry transition to
Māui dolphin-safe fishing. Currently, $13,500 is needed to complete research on the
economic costs and benefits of the fishing industry transitioning to other fishing
methods. A further $150,000 per annum is needed to provide expert input into
transitioning the fishing industry into Māui dolphin safe fishing methods.

4. Looking to support other, smaller, projects with a public involvement outcome. We
are currently seeking $4,000 to distribute the book “Dolphins down under: understanding the New Zealand dolphin” to all New Zealand schools.

5. We also offer to bring together a consultative group with a role of evaluating achievements, assessing future options and negotiating progress. 

How can you get involved?

We are fundraising to help support the highest-priority conservation efforts for the critically endangered Maui dolphin. You or your business can help get behind saving our endemic dolphins by offering financial support, becoming an Ambassador to help raise funds, and helping to raise awareness around their plight.

Endangered Insect Captive Breeding Facility

We are grateful to the Graham Hirst Kitney Charitable Trust for granting $10,000 to purchase equipment for the development of a captive-breeding facility for endangered New Zealand insects, at the NZ School of Forestry at Canterbury University. 

What is being done?

The ESFNZ has attracted partial funding for a project to establish an endangered insect captive breeding facility at Lincoln University. Dr Tara Murray of the Centre for Conservation Biology at Lincoln University is currently looking for a PhD student to help develop captive rearing techniques (using more common insects), that can be applied to endangered insects at the captive breeding facility. Critically endangered species such as the Canterbury knobbled weevil will benefit from this facility.

How can you get involved?

Contact Dr Tara Murray at the NZ School of Forestry for more information.

Foundation Facts

  • 4,000
    endangered species
  • $1.5Million
    projected annual income
    available to save our species
  • As little as
    can save many of our
    endangered species
  • Only
    species are currently in
    conservation programmes