New Zealand's geographic isolation for 80 million years and island biogeography is responsible for the country's unique species of flora and fauna. They have either evolved from Gondwanan wildlife or the few organisms that have managed to reach the shores flying, swimming or being carried across the sea.
About 82 percent of New Zealand's indigenous vascular plants are endemic, covering almost 2.000 species.
The forests are dominated by birds, and the lack of mammalian predators led to some like the kiwi, kakapo and takahē evolving flightlessness.
Other indigenous animals are represented by reptiles (tuataras, skinks and geckos), frogs, spiders (katipo), insects (weta) and snails. Some, such as the wrens and tuatara, are so unique that they have been called living fossils.
Marine mammals however are abundant, with almost half the world's cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and porpoises) and large numbers of fur seals reported in New Zealand waters. Many seabirds breed in New Zealand, a third of them unique to the country. More penguin species are found in New Zealand than in any other country.
According to the 2012 Environmental Performance Index, New Zealand is considered a"strong performer" in environmental protection, ranking 14th out of 132assessed countries.
Landing of a majestic Gannett of the Muriwai's colony