Protecting New Zealand's rarest of the rare.

Current Projects

Threatened Plant Breeders Network

The ESFNZ has secured $18,000 in funding from the Stout Trust to establish a nationwide threatened plant breeders’ network. Work to establish and initially coordinate this vital network will start early 2017.


NZ Fairy Tern

Major progress has been made on the ESFNZ initiative to create 3D printed artificial NZ fairy tern eggs. It’s an exciting development that involves WWF NZ, the International Centre for Birds of Prey, Exeter University, and Auckland University. High quality dummy eggs will replace wild eggs removed for artifical 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. Many thanks to Frank Visser and Key Industries Ltd for their support.

Eyelash Seaweed

Kaikoura Museum is planning to develop a display of local features, including the critically endangered eyelash seaweed which only occurs at two Kaikoura coastal sites. This rare 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 at Dunedin Botanic Garden’s new propagation facility, in an innovative approach to safeguard the species from extinction. Seeds were sown in December 2015 and germinated during January and February 2016, with a 60% rate germination success rate and 89 healthy seedlings. 

Chesterfield Skink

A further $5,000 will be added to $50,000 of ESFNZ funding for protection of the critically endangered Chesterfield skink. We are in discussion with the Department of Conservation to determine what needs to be achieved to protect the species. 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.

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)

The ESFNZ Board recently agreed to support a major restoration project at Wellington’s Red Rocks/Te Kopahou Reserve, with work beginning later this year. We have contracted Dr Mike Thorsen (ERA Ecology NZ Ltd) to develop an endangered species restoration plan for the reserve. Mike will be working closely with Wellington City Council on this.

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