Protecting New Zealand's rarest of the rare.

Current Projects


Gardenstar, Te Whiringa Hau-Rongo is a backyard biodiversity movement which aims to increase native species while boosting human well-being and human-nature connection.  87% of Kiwis are urban-dwelling and most people have access to a garden where rare endangered species can grow and thrive. This new programme is being designed to radically support the rapid development and use of urban gardens to feed and nourish Aotearoa's humans and native species.

To find out more and get involved check out

Tairāwhiti Ngutukākā - East Coast Kākābeak

This project seeks to facilitate the return of threatened Ngutukākā to appropriate landscapes across Te-Ika-a-Maui.

Despite the spectacular flowers of kakabeak being well known to many gardeners, wild populations of Eastern kakabeak are disappearing rapidly. These highly edible plants are irresistible to all manner of pest, and are outcompeted by weeds, causing conservationists to go to great lengths to protect remaining plants.  

The Kakabeak (Clianthus puniceus & Clianthus maximus) conservation factsheet (pdf) details what needs doing and how much money it will cost to prevent the extinction of these species.

You can find out more about what is happening to revive Ngutukākā here.

Threatened Plant Breeders Network

We are looking for volunteer conservation groups to join the new Threatened Plant Breeders Network.

We need groups who can, initially, grow the endangered herbs Lepidium banksii (coastal peppercress) and Leptinella filiformis (slender button daisy). It’s intended that the group will first trial the coordinated cultivation of these two herbs, and then become a permanent group growing a range of endangered plants.

The trial is 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 has been undertaken with the support of Stout Trust.

If you think you may be able to help, please contact Dr Mike Thorsen at

Read more about what can be done to save Lepidium banksii (coastal peppercress)

NZ Fairy Tern

We have been working with WWF-NZ, the International Centre for Birds of Prey, Exeter University, and Auckland University to develop high quality, 3D-printed fairy tern eggs. These highly realistic dummy eggs were trialed successfully, and are now employed in the NZ fairy tern recovery programme. The dummy eggs 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. 

The same techniques were recently applied to the kakapo recovery programme, where 3D-printed smart eggs replace fertile eggs removed for incubation. These smart eggs begin to make noise as the time approaches for the real chicks to arrive. 

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

Thanks to a private donation, we were pleased to be able to help out with funds to provide emergency housing at Auckland Zoo for one of NZ’s 10 most endangered species

A population of 50 critically endangered Chesterfield skinks has now been established in captivity. In 2017, the entire population was estimated to be fewer than 200 individuals. However, the species was seriously impacted in February 2018 when tidal surges created by Cyclone Fehi destroyed almost half of their habitat. With the threat of coastal erosion increasing, DOC staff and volunteers caught 50 animals over the following months and had them flown to Auckland Zoo.

Auckland Zoo’s Richard Gibson, and his team, have created an environment replicating their natural West Coast micro-habitat and climate so that they can continue to display all their natural behaviours, to help maximise their chances of survival once they are able to be returned to a safe area in the wild.

The next step is for DOC to build a predator-proof enclosure at a suitable site for the skinks that is less prone to erosion, where a predator proof fenced area will provide protection from mice, feral cats, stoats, and rats. Once this is complete DOC will return the captive population to the fenced area.


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, and is found in one location only - a single site near Kaikoura. The population had nearly halved in the several years leading up to the Kaikoura Earthquake in 2016, when it was down to only 36 individuals.

Remarkably, the site and the liverwort survived the quakes, and the population has more than doubled to 94 individuals!

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 developed a restoration plan for us for Te Kopahou Reserve on Wellington’s south coast, which Wellington City Council has incorporated into  their greater reserve management plan.

The uncommon and hardy local dwarf kowhai was planted on the first planting day, held in September 2018,  in pockets on the steep walls of a deep valley. These small groves will become a point for further endangered plant and animal species to re-establish, helped by ongoing predator control and weed eradication.

Conservation management of rare coastal vegetation in such a harsh environment is largely in its infancy, so there will be lessons to learn from this project which can then be applied to future work on the speargrass weevil and the Canterbury knobbled weevil.

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. Working with conservation groups, government agencies and industry, and 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. 

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?

ESF has attracted partial funding for a project to establish an endangered insect captive breeding facility. Dr Tara Murray at the University of Canterbury's School of Forestry has a PhD student helping 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

  • Over
    endangered species
  • Just
    of our most critically endangered Māui Dolphins remain
  • Only
    species are currently in
    conservation programmes