Protecting New Zealand's rarest of the rare.

Priority Species

In addition to our 10 Most Endangered Species, to date, we have investigated a further 40 species and one habitat type that are near the brink of extinction. In every case we have identified what needs to be done to protect the species, and in some cases this work is costed.

Most of these species are little-known, with poorly understood biology and ecology. Many are small and hard-to-find species, or found in only one or two locations. For some, the causes of their decline are clear, for others it is not clear.

What is clear is that these species need funding to get critical conservation work done as soon as possible. Please get in touch with us if you are able to assist.

Thanks to Stout Trust for supporting this work.


South Island long-tailed bat (Chalinolobus tuberculatus)

Constantly shifting

The South Island long-tailed bat uses a different roosting site each day. Roosts need to be high quality to provide protection from predation and the elements. The cavities in large old red beech trees provide the best protection. While a range of roosting sites in a variety of habitats are used, the bat is vulnerable to predation and population decline.

Predator control and habitat protection are key conservation actions. It is feared that without conservation action many populations will go extinct within the next 50 years.

The South Island long-tailed bat conservation factsheet (pdf) details what needs doing to protect this species from extinction.

Keywords: Mast seeding, red beech (Fuscospora fusca), Eglington Valley, Hanging Rock, Bat Box III, Vespertilionidae, pine plantations


Antipodean albatross (Diomedea antipodensis antipodensis)

The traveller

Antipodean albatross spend the majority of their lives at sea, only returning to the Antipodes Islands to breed every second year. More recently, their foraging distances have expanded with foraging occurring along the continental shelf off Chile and the eastern coast of Australia. It is these long periods at sea which pose the greatest threat to the birds. 

The current decline in this Nationally Critical species has been partly attributed to climate change. Warmer sea surface temperatures and altered wind and rainfall patterns both offshore and on land cause increased exposure and heat stress to chicks, and make foraging for food more difficult, due to changes in the movement and abundance of their prey species. 

The Diomedea antipodensis antipodensis conservation factsheet (pdf) details what is being done and what more needs doing to protect this species from extinction.


Keywords: fishing industry, fishing techniques, bycatch, bycatch mitigation devices, mouse predation, mouse eradication, island biosecurity, pest free, climate change impact assessment, population monitoring

Black-billed gull (Larus bulleri) Tarapuka

The risk taker

Black-billed gulls mostly breed in colonies on the banks and islands of braided rivers in the South Island of New Zealand. These constantly changing habitats are created and destroyed by changing water flows.

Even though current estimates of black-billed gulls are of more than 30,000 pairs, this number has declined by over 70% over the last 30 years leading to their sudden classification as a Nationally Critical endangered species. They are now the rarest of the world’s gull species. The reasons for their dramatic decline in numbers are poorly understood, with many possible causes.

The Black-billed gull (Larus bulleri) conservation factsheet (pdf) details what needs doing to protect this species from extinction.

Black robin (Petroica traversi)

No longer the world's rarest bird

In 1980 only 5 birds remained, all on tiny Tapuaenuku/Little Mangere Island in the Chatham Island group. The species would be extinct today if not for the incredibly hard work of a team of conservationists, led by the late Don Merton, who overcame obstacle after obstacle in one of the most intensive conservation programmes in the world.

The successful conservation programme continues today, with island biosecurity to protect the 250-300 birds from pests.
The Black robin (Petroica traversi) conservation factsheet (pdf) details the history of the bird's management, and options for future conservation action.

Keywords: Charles Fleming, Douglas Flack, Old Blue, Old Yellow, chick fostering, translocation, bird transfer, egg transfer, Rangatira Island, South East Island

Chatham shag (Leucocarbo onslowi)

The thief

The Chatham shag, endemic to the Chatham Islands, is curiously known for thieving nest material from its neighbours. Despite being related to the Otago and Foveaux shags, the Chatham shag’s biology and the reasons for the recent drop in numbers of nesting birds are poorly understood.

While research into the shag’s biology, ecology and survival rates is needed, practical steps can be employed now, including fencing breeding colonies from seals and livestock, predator control and promoting the use of shag-safe crayfish pots. 
The Chatham shag (Leucocarbo onslowi) conservation factsheet (pdf) details what needs doing to protect this species from extinction.

Keywords: Chatham Island shag, Leucocarbo stewarti, Leucocarbo chalcontus, mesh size, climate change, fisheries, disturbance

Eastern rockhopper penguin (Eudyptes filholi)

Population crash

One of New Zealand's most numerous endangered species, numbering approximately 100,000 pairs on the Subantarctic Antipodes, Campbell, Auckland and Macquarie Islands. However, rising sea temperatures may be affecting food supply and the numbers of birds is falling fast.

Their numbers strongly reflect ocean conditions, which are forecast to become more variable as a result of climate change. Increased time spent foraging at sea increases the vulnerability of chicks left in the breeding colonies. Further research is needed on the Subantarctic food web, and the role of penguins within it.

The Eastern rockhopper penguin (Eudyptes filholi) conservation factsheet (pdf) details what needs doing to protect this species from extinction.

Keywords: Western rockhopper penguin Eudyptes chrysocome, Moseley’s rockhopper penguin Eudyptes moseleyi, fishing industry

Gibson's antipodean albatross

The Auckland Islands' traveller

Endemic to the Subantarctic Auckland Islands archipelago, these ocean foragers make lengthy trips over the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean risking not only their lives but the lives of their chicks. Following the adoption of seabird-safe fishing techniques, the numbers of albatross being caught has reduced. However, the loss of even a few individuals may not be sustainable in a long-lived species such as this, especially now that they are so rare.

Find out what can be done to help save this Nationally Critical subspecies by reading Gibson's antipodean albatross conservation factsheet (pdf 2.6MB).

Keywords: wandering albatross

Little spotted kiwi (Apteryx owenii)

The luck of the islands

The little spotted kiwi is the smallest of all kiwi species, and may once have been one of New Zealand’s
rarest birds, without anyone noticing. Now that its population is secure on offshore islands and one fenced
mainland sanctuary, it is being returned to other islands and protected sites on the mainland, as far south
as Fiordland.

Read the fascinating story of how careful management has brought one of Aotearoa's iconic birds back from the brink of extinction (Little spotted kiwi Endangered species factsheet 2.4MB PDF).


Lowland longjaw galaxias (Galaxias cobitinis)

River bed burrower

One of the rarest freshwater fish in New Zealand, known only from a few sites in Otago and the Mackenzie Basin, this small whitebait species faces multiple threats. Its rivers and tributaries are degraded by waterweeds, sedimentation, widely varying water levels and invasion by predatory trout. 

Riparian fencing and planting, and intensive interventions by the Department of Conservation is helping to halt its decline. 
The Lowland longjaw galaxias (Galaxias cobitinis) conservation factsheet (pdf) describes the species, its threats and what is being done to protect it.

Keywords: Kauru River, Kakanui River, Waianakarua River, water extraction, gravel extraction, non-migratory, galaxiid, kōkopu, native trout, electric fishing, installing weirs, Department of Conservation


Archey's frog (Leiopelma archeyi)

Victim of the frog-killer fungus

The frog-killer fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (or chytrid fungus) has resulted in the extinction of a number of frog species. It was feared that it would cause the extinction of New Zealand’s endemic frogs after it was detected in Archey’s frogs in the 1990’s. Despite a catastrophic decline in numbers in the Coromandel, the frogs survived infection at Whareorino (Waikato). The Coromandal population has now stabilised and it is estimated that 5,000 to 20,000 Archey’s frogs remain. 

Archey’s frog is one of the world’s most primitive frogs, and is number one on the list of the top 100 EDGE amphibian species. EDGE stands for Evolutionary Distinct and Globally Endangered, and identifies the most unique of the earth’s biodiversity that is closest to extinction.

The Archey's frog (Leiopelma archeyi) conservation factsheet (pdf) details what needs doing to protect this species from extinction.


Keywords: Pureora Forest, frog translocation, Native Frog Research Centre, Auckland Zoo, captive breeding, predator-free island

Hamilton's frog (Leiopelma hamiltoni)

Lonely outposts

Once classified as distinct species, the Maud Island frog race and the Stephen’s Island frog race are now known as one species with two Evolutionary Distinct Units.

There are only about 300 Stephen’s Island-race frogs. This makes it one of the rarest frogs in the world, and it is classified as Nationally Critical. Maintaining strict island biosecurity is paramount as the arrival of exotic pests or the frog-killer (chytrid) fungus could easily cause the extinction of the race. The Maud Island frogs are more abundant and classified as Nationally Vulnerable.

The Hamilton's frog (Leiopelma hamiltoni) conservation factsheet (pdf) details the Maud and Stephen's Islands races and the importance of island biosecurity for their protection. 

Keywords: Leiopelma pakeka, island biosecurity, frog translocation


Fischer's egg fungus (Claustula fischeri)

Moa fodder?

Little is understood about this intriguing fungus, seen (very rarely) when fruiting as a white egg on the ground. Researchers are keen to find out how this mysterious fungus disperses when no opening appears in the puffball-like fruiting body to release spores. 

Researchers speculate that insects or native ground-feeding birds disperse spores, but, as many of these potential dispersers are now rare or extinct (eg. moa), other birds may have only partly filled this role.

If you think you see a Fisher’s egg fungus, take a photo, record the location and send it to ESF. 
The Fischer's egg fungus (Claustula fischeri) conservation factsheet (pdf) details what needs doing and how much money it will cost to save this species from extinction.

Keywords: Brook Waimarama Sanctuary, Fringed Hill, Dun Mountain walkway, Nelson City Council, Lady Rigg (formerly Kathleen Maisey Curtis), walking tracks, mountain bike tracks, Claustulaceae, stinkhorn fungus, Phallales, hyphae, dikaryon, truffleoid, mycelium, research cost, survey cost, conservation cost

Giant weta fungus (Cordyceps kirkii)

The body snatcher

This poorly known fungus that infests giant weta has only ever been seen twice, on Stephens Island giant weta in the outer Marlborough Sounds. 

If you find a dead weta that is covered in white fuzz and that has small-stalked pale yellow knobs, please take a photo, record the location and send it to us.

The Giant weta fungus (Cordyceps kirkii) conservation factsheet (pdf) details what needs doing to protect this species from extinction.


Keywords: translocated weta, Cordycipitaceae, white mould


Salt pans

The last fragments

Found only in the driest areas of Central Otago and the Waitaki Valley, only tiny fragments of salt pan habitat remain. Only 100 hectares remains of the 40,000 hectares mapped in the 1970s. These natural salt pans are endangered habitats supporting endangered plants and insects.

The Salt pans conservation factsheet (pdf) details what needs doing and how much money it will cost to protect this habitat from extinction.

Keywords: halophyte, rare habitat, Nationally Critical habitat, salt pan cress Lepidium kirkii, pygmy salt grass Puccinellia raroflorens, New Zealand celery Apium prostratum, remuremu Selliera radicans, Buchanan’s orache Atriplex buchananii, salt-tolerant weeds, buckshorn plantain Plantago coronopus, Mediterranean barley grass Critesion hystrix, salt grasses (Puccinellia species), pygmy forget-me-not Myosotis brevis, New Zealand mousetail Myosurus minimus ssp. novae-zelandiae, salt pan moth Paranotoreas fulva, Loxostege sp. “salt pan”, Scythris triatma, Kiwaia thyraula, herbicide trial


Edpercivalia dugdalei caddisfly

A very particular caddisfly

This caddisfly is only known from two Northland streams. Found in clean cool waters flowing in kauri forest - it is quite possible that it may be found in other freshwater seeps or headwaters. Enthusiasts will need a microscope to discover more populations.
The Edpercivalia dugdalei caddisfly conservation factsheet (pdf) provides some clues to help in the search for further populations.

Keywords: John Dugdale, Omahuta Kauri Sanctuary, Ian Henderson, Waipapa River, Puketi Forest, larvae, Hydrobiosidae, Trichoptera, mature kauri forest

Edpercivalia smithi caddisfly

The Divide caddisfly

This caddisfly is only known from Divide Creek in Fiordland. There is a high possibility that it is present in other Fiordland stream seepages. It is hoped that enthusiasts will discover it in more locations. 
The Edpercivalia smithi conservation factsheet (pdf) details why this species is on New Zealand's Nationally Critical list.

Keywords: Hydrobiosidae, Trichoptera, free-living caddisfly, Edpercivalia smithi, aquatic caddisfly

Foveaux looper moth (Asaphodes frivola)

Lost and found

Now known from only two windswept beaches near Invercargill, without conservation management the Foveaux looper moth would very likely become extinct within the next 10-30 years. 

Fieldwork is urgently needed to confirm its host plant, so that specific conservation actions, such as habitat enhancement, can be implemented. 

The Foveaux looper moth (Asaphodes frivola) conservation factsheet (pdf 3.8MB) specifies what needs doing and how much money it will cost to protect this species from extinction.

Keywords: Tiwai Spit, Three Sisters, Southland, Ranunculus glabrifolius, coastal herbfield, knobby clubrush, silver tussock, Alfred Philpott, Brian Patrick

Fuzzweed moth (Australothis volatilis)

Daytime moth

Only known from a few scattered dry sites in Central Otago and the Mackenzie Basin, it feeds on the fuzzweed herb, Vittadinia australis, itself rare and endemic to New Zealand. Protecting the fuzzweed moth requires protecting fuzzweed sites.

A day-active moth with a distinctive fast and erratic flying pattern - anyone interested could help locate this species. It may also be possible to breed fuzzweed moths on fuzzweed plants grown in pots in a garden, in a similar way that monarch butterflies can be raised. 
The Fuzzweed moth (Australothis volatilis) conservation factsheet (pdf) details what needs doing to protect this species from extinction.

Kanapa karāroa (Aupouriella pohei)

A little-known mayfly

This pale and delicate mayfly is only known from one small and remote stream at North Cape. Experts suspect it could be adapted to the location’s serpentine rock streams and endemic to them. 

Little is known about this distinctive species, and further survey of North Cape streams by an experienced aquatic entomologist is needed.
The Kanapa karāroa (Aupouriella pohei) conservation factsheet (pdf) explains why this species is on New Zealand's Nationally Critical list.

Keywords: Whiriwhiri Stream, nymphs, prong-gilled mayfly family, Leptophlebiidae, manganese, Surville Cliffs, Stephen Pohe

Kiwaia sp. 'Cloudy Bay'

Cloudy Bay jumper moth

Known from only one beachfront location, and with a wildly fluctuating population, this unnamed jumping moth is lucky to have a local community group helping to protect it.

Locals and other beach users are helping protect this, and several other endemic species, by guiding 4-wheel-driving away from native vegetation. Find out more Cloudy Bay jumper moth factsheet (pdf 1.5MB).

Maloides cavernicola (a cave spider)

A poorly-known cave spider

Only one of these nationally critical cave dwellers has been found. Its small eyes are indicative of a life spent in almost complete darkness.  

Conservation measures needed are similar to those used for protecting the Nelson cave spider (Spelungula cavernicola). 

The Maloides cavernicola conservation factsheet (pdf 0.9MB) is sure to intrigue.

Keywords: United Creek Cave, cave spider, Amaurobiidae, tangled nest spider, hackled mesh spider, mine access drift

Cape Turnagain pimelea moth (Notoreas perornata 'Cape Turnagain')

Similar but different

This pimelea moth is only known from Cape Turnagain, in Hawke's Bay, where it inhabits a coastal turf community, which is a Critically Endangered ecosystem. The native daphnes (Pimelea species) that they feed on are rare at this site.

The Cape Turnagain pimelea moth is a Geometrid moth that belongs to the Notoreas
species complex, a group of eight similar-looking moths. It is closely related to a pimelea moth found at nearby Castle Point.

Find out more about this moth and its niche in this factsheet (Cape Turnagain moth Endangered species factsheet 3MB PDF).

Mackenzie Basin drowned moth (Orocrambus fugitivellus)

Mysterious moth in drowned world

The moth Orocrambus fugitivellus is only known from one seasonally wet grassland site of several hectares in the eastern Mackenzie Basin. Here they can be locally abundant in late summer, inhabiting native and exotic grasses and sedges.

Unusually, this habitat can be inundated with water in early spring-summer, and then
extremely dry by the time the adult moths emerge. No one knows how the moth
survives being covered in water for months at a time. 

Read more about this incredible moth, and how it needs help, in this factsheet (Orocrambus fugitivellus Endangered species factsheet 1MB PDF)

Potamopyrgus acus freshwater snail

A freshwater snail out of water

Potamopyrgus acus is only known from one location in the Waikato, where it was discovered in 1981 but hasn't been seen since. The Potamopyrgus acus snail conservation factsheet (pdf 0.9MB) details what to look for and where to search to help us locate this species.

Keywords: Port Waikato, limestone gullies

Potamopyrgus oppidanus freshwater snail

Join the search

This tiny freshwater snail is only known from one stream in Wadestown, Wellington. It is hoped that surveys will discover populations in other streams. 

Snails in the genus Potamopyrgus are usually found on woody debris, stones and leaf litter in freshwater streams in New Zealand and South-East Australia. 

You can help by searching for this snail in un-channelised and shaded parts of streams in and around Wadestown.

The Potamopyrgus oppidanus snail conservation factsheet (pdf) details what to look for and where to search to help us locate this species.


Marine life

Antique lamp shell

Help us shine a light on Pumilus antiquates

The antique lamp shell is a representative of a group of ancient shelled-invertebrates known as Brachiopods. 

Brachiopods are studied all around the world, but are mostly known to scientists as fossils that are useful for dating the age of sedimentary rocks. During the Paleozoic (540-252 million years ago) lamp shells dominated the warm shallow seas, but they have been largely replaced by molluscs and other animals. New Zealand is, however, a hotspot for living brachiopods with 38 living species.

Pumilus antiquatus used to be abundant in Otago Harbour but is now rare, possibly as a result of water pollution. It has also been found in Lyttleton Harbour and at Karitane (north of Dunedin), and it is hoped that more populations will be found. ESF invites divers and snorkelers to search for this species in other coastal areas such as around Stewart Island, the Marlborough Sounds and Wellington Harbour.

More details on where to look and what to look for are available in the Pumilus antiquates conservation factsheet (PDF, 0.9MB).


New Zealand sea lion

Under pressure

Multiple factors are putting the population of New Zealand sea lions under pressure, once again.

Re-establishment of sea lion breeding on mainland New Zealand hides the fact that their main population on the Subantarctic Islands is crashing. Threatened by infection, certain fisheries, and natural and environmental conditions, their population has dropped to around 10,000 adults.

Our New Zealand sea lion conservation factsheet (pdf 1.2MB) explains the factors contributing to the decline, what is being done and what is proposed to help save these incredible deep sea divers.

Polychaete worm (Boccardiella magniovata)

Large-egged bristle worm with narrow niche

This polychaete worm inhabits slightly salty muds in a few harbours and estuaries in the North and South Islands. It has been lost from at least one location following land reclamation. It possibly occurs in other places with similar conditions, so careful searching is needed.

Read more about this inconspicuous marine worm in our factsheet (Polychaete worm Endangered species factsheet 1MB PDF).


Holloway's crystalwort (Atriplex hollowayi)


This annual succulent herb has very rapidly disappeared from many of the beaches from which it was known. It once occupied the sand just above the hightide line of some of the larger beaches from Northland to East Cape. Now, it only inhabits Waikuku and Whareana Beaches near North Cape where its survival is dependent on an intensive conservation programme. The number of plants varies hugely from year to year – from none, to over 200. The reasons for its disappearance are not fully understood.

The Holloway's crystalwort (Atriplex hollowayi) conservation factsheet (pdf 1.7 MB) details the current effort going into its protection and what more is needed.

Keywords: Chenopodiaceae, Department of Conservation, Native Tree Nursery, Te Manawa o Ngati Kuri, Ngataki, four-wheel drive vehicles

Kakabeak (Clianthus puniceus & Clianthus maximus)

Plant icon on the brink

Despite the spectacular flowers of kakabeak being well known to many gardeners, wild populations of Eastern kakabeak are disappearing rapidly, and Northern kakabeak recently became extinct in the wild. 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.


Keywords: Clianthus puniceus, Clianthus maximus, Maori food crop, seed orchards

Muehlenbeckia astonii shrubby toroaro

Landscaper's idol

Now a popular plant for landscaping, with its dense interlacing orange branches providing strong texture in a garden – Muehlenbeckia astonii or shrubby toroaro is very rare in the wild. Seedlings and young plants are almost completely absent from all but one site that carries the bulk of the remaining plants. 

In 2000, the Department of Conservation published a plan for saving the species, and plants from many of the sites are being grown in gardens as insurance against the loss of wild plants. ESF is incorporating shrubby toroaro into its restoration project at Te Kopahou on Wellington’s south coast.

The Muehlenbeckia astonii conservation factsheet (pdf) details what can be done to save this species in the wild.


Keywords: Birdlings Flat, Kaitorete Spit, shrubby pohuehue, wiggy wig, zig zag plant, divaricating


Coromandel striped gecko (Toropuku 'Coromandel')

An enigma

Discovered in 1997 on the Coromandel Peninsula, only a dozen or so have ever been seen. This rare species is nocturnal and well-camouflaged. 

To protect the Coromandel striped gecko we need to know more about where it is found. Any sightings of this gecko are important. If you see this gecko, please contact your local Department of Conservation office.
The Coromandel striped gecko (Toropuku 'Coromandel') conservation factsheet (pdf 0.8 MB) highlights how little we know about this beautiful species, and how you can help us.

Keywords: Toropuku stephensi, Woodworthia chrysosireticus, Stephens Island striped gecko

Rangitata skink (Oligosoma aff. longipes 'Rangitata')

The hidden lizard

The Rangitata skink is a newly discovered species. It lives above the bush-line, on unstable and precarious greywacke scree-covered slopes, only in the Ashburton Mountains. 

It is very rare, mainly because of mammalian predation, a threat common
to many New Zealand lizard species. However, ways to effectively control predators on scree slopes are yet to be developed. 

The Rangitata skink conservation factsheet (pdf) details what needs doing to protect this species from extinction.


Other animals

Eriophyoidea leaf mite

Of uncertain placement

With the status of Nationally Critical, this leaf mite is only known from one host tree in Northland. Very little is known about this animal, and too few specimens are available to place it with an existing species.The mite is a member of an ancient group of animals.

What could be done to help? The Eriophyoidea incertae sedis conservation factsheet (pdf 0.9MB) explains.


Keywords: Putaputaweta, marbleleaf, Carpodetus serratus, Eriophyinae, Eriophyidae

Foundation Facts

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