With stunning and diverse natural beauty, steep fjords, scenic beaches and rich temperate rainforests, New Zealand is an island paradise
In the southwestern Pacific lies the sparsely populated island country known as New Zealand. Situated east of Australia across the Tasman Sea and south of the many Pacific islands, it is comprised of two major landmasses and was one of the last islands to be settled by humans. As such, it supports a distinctive biodiversity of unique animals, plants, and fungi.
Due to the cold and nutrient rich Pacific waters that surround New Zealand, almost half of the world’s whale and dolphin species have been seen around the islands. From the endemic Hector’s dolphins to the top predator in the sea, the orcas, these water harbor rich underwater environments. Many fish and invertebrate species find food and shelter in the lush kelp forests that surround much of New Zealand’s remote islands.
My team and I traveled to New Zealand to observe the distinctive population of orcas that inhabit these waters. During the filming of our two-hour special, Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ocean Adventures – Call of the Killer Whale, we met with scientists and came to learn more about their complex social structures, communication strategies, and unique hunting method and behaviors. Although New Zealand is less populated than many places around the world, the animals that live here remain threatened by global climate change, habitat degradation, local pollution, entanglement and by-catch from fishing operations.
State of New Zealand
- Invasive species pose a serious threat to native flora and fauna in New Zealand.
- The damning of rivers for hydro development greatly alters freshwater habitats.
- Habitat loss from destructive mining, agricultural, and oil exploration practices endanger native species.
- Humans have already destroyed 2/3 of New Zealand’s forests.
- Destructive fishing methods like long lining continue to kill dolphins and non-targeted fish in a wasteful practice known as by-catch.
The New Zealand Expedition Team
Videos from New Zealand
Learn more about our work in New Zealand
- Watch our PBS documentary series Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ocean Adventures – Call of the Killer Whale.
- Read Jean-Michel Cousteau’s statement on the Freedom for Orcas and learn about OFS’s continued dedication to end the captivity of Orcas.
- Learn about Jean-Michel Cousteau’s experience with Morgan, a captured Orca that has remains in captivity today – A Change at Freedom.
- Explore Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Global Alliance to Save the Whales.
- The term ‘Kiwi’ is a nickname for New Zealanders, and it is also the name for an endemic flightless bird and the kiwi fruit.
- New Zealand is home to the world’s smallest dolphin species, the Maui dolphin, a critically endangered species with less than 100 individuals left in the wild.
- During our expedition to New Zealand, Jean-Michel Cousteau and the team helped Dr. Ingrid Visser save a stranded young orca, which is named Rakey-Cousteau!
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