Photo: Michael Hamilton
The Karori Sanctuary Experience

What is Zealandia?

Our history

Two little spotted kiwis, with a background of low sandhills and fern

Two little spotted kiwis, with a background of low sandhills and fern

Eighty million years ago, the landmass that was to become New Zealand, broke away from Gondwana, setting our islands off on a unique evolutionary path that is still shaping our flora and fauna to this day. The name of this continent is Zealandia.

Our islands were a home for animals and plants found nowhere else on Earth: lost lineages and living fossils; a land of giants, where birds were at the top of the food chain.

Less than 1,000 years ago everything changed. Animals were hunted to extinction. Forests were burned and felled. Wetlands were drained and grasslands were grazed and ploughed. Successive waves of settlers brought with them a range of new animals and plants that quickly became pests. The unique wildlife of Zealandia started to vanish.

In response to this catastrophic loss, the world’s first fully-fenced urban wildlife sanctuary was born. With an extraordinary 500-year vision to turn back the clock as closely as possible to the day before humans arrived, Zealandia provides a safe haven for some of New Zealand’s most endangered native animals.