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The forests of Waipoua, Waima & Mataraua are vitally important refuges for threatened wildlife. The endangered North Island kokako is found in the Wekaweka Highlands.  Waipoua may well contain the biggest remaining population of North Island brown kiwi, with numbers reaching into the thousands.  The native forest parrots, kakariki and kaka are occasionally seen but are no longer common.  More abundant is the NZ Pigeon (or kukupa) which plays a vital role spreading the seeds of many plants. Fantail, pied tit, tui, grey warbler, shining cuckoo and kingfisher are also fairly common.


Waipoua may well contain the biggest remaining population of North Island brown kiwi, with numbers reaching into the thousands.  Conservation of this endangered species undertaken by  organisations including the Wekaweka Landcare Group, Waipoua Forest Trust, Te Rora, and the Department of Conservation.  Residents and visitors to the area can also volunteer to help.  Kiwis can be spotted at night in the Waipoua forest, and also at Trounson Kaur Park reserve.  There are also some great accommodation options where you may be lucky enough to spot a kiwi on the property. To increase your chances,i'ts a good idea to check out this further information on how increase your chances of spotting a wild kiwi at night, or you could book a guided tour.

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The kiwi’s ancestor helped Tane-mahuta save his children, the trees, which were being eaten by bugs and beginning to sicken. All the birds were called together and asked if one would come down from the forest canopy to live on the forest floor and help save the trees.

Not a bird spoke, so each one was asked in turn.

Tui refused.  He was afraid of the darkness down on the ground, away from the sun.

Pukeko refused.  He found the forest floor too cold and the earth too damp.

Pipiwharauroa, the shining cuckoo, also refused. He was too busy building his nest.

But kiwi agreed.  He looked at the sun filtering through the high leaves and the damp cold earth, and he looked around and saw his family.  And still he agreed.

Tane-mahuta was filled with joy, for this little bird gave him hope, but he felt he should warn kiwi of what lay ahead.

‘E kiwi, do you realise you will have to grow thick, strong legs so that you can rip apart logs on the ground.  That you will loose your beautiful coloured feathers and wings so that you will never be able to return to the forest roof. You will never see the light of day again.’

Still kiwi agreed.

Since then, tui has worn two white feathers at his throat, the mark of a coward. Pukeko has lived forever in a swamp, with wet feet. And Pipiwharauroa has never built another nest – instead the cuckoo always lays her eggs in other birds’ nests.

But because of kiwi’s great sacrifice, he has become the most well-known and most loved bird of all.

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With their extraordinary haunting song, and obscure evolutionary relationships to other birds, kokako evoke the forests of ancient New Zealand/Aotearoa perhaps more than any other species. More likely to be heard than seen, North Island kokako have persisted in small populations  and intensive predator control since the 1990s has brought the Waima forest population back from the brink of extinction and it is now used to supply translocations to other forest populations. The Kokako reserve can be found along the Waoku Coach Road walk.  


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Māori myth refers to the kōkako in several stories. In one notable story, a kōkako gave Māui water as he fought the sun by filling its plump wattles with water and offering it to Māui to quench his thirst. Māui rewarded kōkako for its kindness by stretching its legs until they were lean, long and strong, so that kōkako could easily leap through the forest to find food.


Often heard in the forest at dusk and throughout the night, the morepork (Ninox novaeseelandiae) is known for its haunting, melancholic call. Its Māori name, ruru, reflects this call.
Morepork are speckled brown with yellow eyes set in a dark facial mask. They have a short tail.

The females are bigger than the males. Head to tail they measure around 29 cm and the average weight is about 175 g.

They have acute hearing and are sensitive to light. They can turn their head through 270 degrees.

The Ruru Is A Powerful Figure In Maori Mythology And Tradition.  Being said to originate from the underworld, the Morepork (Ruru) is strongly associated with the spirit world in Maori mythology. For example, it is believed that if a Morepork sits conspicuously nearby or enters a house there will be a death in the family and in times gone by these strong beliefs led to some Taranaki Maori eating Morepork, believing that it would prolong their lives.
The ancestral spirit of a family group can take the form of a Ruru in some Maori tradition. This spirit is known as Hine-ruru, the ‘owl woman’. It is believed that these owl spirits can act as kaitiaki or guardians and have the power to protect, warn and advise.
While it’s high piercing ‘quee’ call spells bad news, its normal ‘more-pork’ call means that good news is on its way.

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Once widespread through Northland, the kauri snail now has a limited distribution in parts of Northland and on a few offshore islands.

  • Giant snails may live to 20 years or more.

  • Mating appears to be triggered by climatic conditions, such as rainfall, and can last for 10 hours or more.

  • Snail hatchlings spend an unknown period living in trees and shrubs up to 6 metres above the ground.

  • The kauri snail is carnivorous and cannibalistic. Its diet consists of earthworms, insects, insect larvae, and snails.

  • Kauri snails are also highly mobile, and have been known to move 10 metres in 2 weeks.


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The world’s smallest penguin – little penguin (also known as little blue penguin) – is just over 25 cm tall and weighs around 1 kg.  Adult birds can be occasionally seen on Waimamaku beach when they come ashore between May and June to prepare nests.  They may waddle up to 1.5 km from the sea, and climb 300 m to find the perfect nest site.

By day little penguins are out at sea, fishing and feeding, or in their burrows roosting, moulting or tending eggs or chicks. They are more likely to be seen in sheltered harbours and inlets where they may be spotted from a boat.

They are rarely seen on land, and generally only come ashore under the cover of darkness.

Crayfish/kōura are hard to see as they are so well camouflaged. Kōura are found in native forest, exotic forest, and pastoral waterways, but very rarely in urban streams because of chemical pollution, increased flood flows from stormwater inputs, and degradation of habitat. Kōura densities can be lower in pasture streams compared to native forest streams. Kōura tend to live longer in native forest streams because of cooler water, but grow faster in pasture streams with warmer water temperatures and more abundant invertebrate food.
Kōura have a special part to play in our freshwater lakes and streams. They are native animals and recycle some of the leftover materials by their scavenging, therefore helping to clean up our streams and lakes in their own small way.


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