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What We Fund

The Endangered Species Foundation is a registered charitable organisation supporting high-priority conservation projects that protect New Zealand’s most vulnerable indigenous species and habitats from extinction. We aim to save the 'Rarest of the Rare'.

The Foundation is focused on successful and sustainable projects that will avert the extinction of New Zealand’s unique indigenous biodiversity in all of its forms – from plants and fungi through to fish, insects, birds and mammals. You can read more about our fund here.

With the guidance of an advisory group which includes representatives from Department of Conservation, New Zealand universities and freelance professionals, the Endangered Species Foundation distributes funds to support experts in the management of vulnerable species, and develops partnerships to lead results-oriented initiatives, including the projects below.


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 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.


Chesterfield skinks

A population of 50 critically endangered Chesterfield skinks has now been established in captivity at Auckland Zoo. 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.

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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.

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Endangered insect breeding facility

The Endangered Species Foundation attracted partial funding for a project to establish an endangered insect captive breeding facility. We are grateful to the Graham Hirst Kitney Charitable Trust for granting $10,000 to purchase equipment for this facility at the New Zealand School of Forestry at Canterbury University. 

Dr Tara Murray at the University of Canterbury's School of Forestry had 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.

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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.

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