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February 20, 2008

Inland Island: Karori Wildlife Sanctuary

During our recent trip to Wellington we visited the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary. As the name suggests, it’s a special sanctuary for some of our endangered native birds. The 225 hectare site includes two dams that used to supply the city of Wellington with water. It was decided that the dams might break during an earthquake and a decision was made to lower the dams and use the area as an inland island. The first step was to fence the area with pest free fences.

Pest free fences, Karori Sanctuary

These fences stop possums, stoats, weasels, ferrets, rats and mice from entering the sanctuary. Once the fences were installed a pest-control plan was put in place. A year later all 13 major pests in the area were fully eradicated. Thousands of native trees were planted (the area was previously all in pine) and this planting continues. The long-term vision for the project is to return the area to its original undisturbed state and this will take around 500 years.

Some of New Zealand’s endangered wildlife has been released in the pest-free area including brown teal ducks, the little spotted kiwi, giant wetas, tuatara, stitchbird, North Island saddleback, weka, North Island robin and bellbirds to name a few.

On entry to the sanctuary staff checked my bag for mice, cats, rats and other pests. Thankfully, my bag was found pest-free! I know I would have been more shocked than anyone if a mouse had jumped out. We explored some of the many paths, pausing to peer through the treetops searching for birds.

Lower dam, Karori Sanctuary

We sighted saddlebacks and bellbirds, lots of tuis and fantails as well as some kaka (NZ variety of parrot). I’d never seen kaka up close so was fascinated to see them at the feeding stations.

Kaka, Karori Sanctuary

This photo shows two kaka. They’re a green parrot and blend in quite well with the trees, although they’re easy enough to spot because they make an awful screechy noise.

I would have loved to see a tuatara but since it was overcast they were all in their burrows, but we saw native fish and green geckos along with lots of our songbirds.

They also do a nocturnal tour where you can hear the evening song before the birds go to sleep and then go out hunting for the nocturnal kiwi. Maybe we’ll do this during another time. I’d highly recommend a visit to this sanctuary, if you’re ever down this end of the world.


  1. Amy Ruttan

    Very cool!! I’ve always wanted to see a kiwi up close, because my grandfather, who liked to kid around with a naeve kid told me that kiwi’s stick their heads in the ground and make a noise out their bum.

    Thanks grandpa!! LOL!!

    So what is a stoat?

  2. Shelli Stevens

    Oh how gorgeous! I would love to go see that. Looks like fun.

  3. Gabriele

    To have the money and travel all those cool places …. It’s not that I’m only interested in Romans, after all. :grin:

  4. Shelley Munro

    Amy – a stoat is similar to a weasel.

    I’m going to think about your grandpa and kiwis at the same time now! It’s true they stick their beak in the ground. :lol:

    Shelli – it was fun. I really enjoy anything like this. Hubby and I are planning our trip to the US now and checking out all the cool things to visit. Your National parks are excellent but you also have some good dinosaur/mammoth sites and we’re also talking about going grizzly bear watching.

    Gabriele – hubby and I have been lucky enough to do a lot of travel but we’d love to win the lotto and do more! There are so many wonderful places to visit.

  5. Tempest Knight

    Looks so relaxing! I wish I could be there right now. Great pics, chica! :D

  6. Estella

    I love bird watching. Sounds like a great place!

  7. N.J. Walters

    What a wonderful thing they are doing. It looks incredible. You go to the coolest places!

  8. Jane

    I hope to see a kiwi in person one day. I’m not sure I can handle seeing a giant weta, maybe I can manage a small one.

  9. Janet H

    Beautiful country you have there, Shelly. 500 years to return to its natural state? Kind of humbles you, doesn’t it?

  10. Sara Hantz

    I used it as a sort of back drop to one of my books – very loosely!

  11. Shelley Munro

    Janet H – yes, it does humble one. Before the Maori and European settlers arrived the islands were covered with bush. It must have been something to behold, especially our huge kauri trees.

    Tempest – it was relaxing and very beautiful.

    Estella – you’d enjoy going birdwatching on some of our offshore islands. Many of them have been cleared of pests and restocked with our rarest native birds. The dawn chorus is just amazing.

    NJ – We had a wonderful weekend. NZ is so small it’s easy to fly to the other end just for a weekend. We’re making a point to explore more of our own country.

    Jane – I’ve never seen a kiwi in the wild but they have a nocturnal house at the zoo where you can see them. They’re very cool birds.

  12. Shelley Munro

    It’s a great setting for a book, Sara. Which book is it?

  13. amanda ashby

    I saw my first kiwi and tuatara at the National Aquarium which is here in Napier – good stuff! Are kaka’s the birds that like to eat everything off your car???

  14. Shelley Munro

    No that’s a kea – the mountain parrots – although I think they’re quite similar in looks.

  15. Sara Hantz

    It’s one that’s currently being shopped. Will The Real Abi Saunders Stand Up