In this section:

Below is a list of commonly asked questions about conservation. The answers are a bit further down.

Please note that although this FAQ is defsigned to be helpful it is not a complete discussion nor a substitute for legal advice. It may not cover important issues that affect you and, depending on your situation, you may wish to contact us for further information or advice.

Native and endangered species

  1. How do I report sightings of native species?
  2. Do I need permission to collect feathers, shells and other native/natural materials?
  3. I’ve found this bird/plant/lizard/etc – can you help me identify it?
  4. Are there any circumstances when native birds may be killed?
  5. Where can I see a kākāpō?
  6. What should I plant to attract native birds to my garden?
  7. Is there a book or reference site about what native plants grow best where and how to care for native plants?
  8. Do you have a comprehensive list of NZ native plants?

Pests and weeds

  1. Do you have a plant pest/weed identification list?
  2. Where should I report biosecurity issues (like Argentine ant sightings)?
  3. Can you tell me about didymo and what to do to help stop spreading it?
  4. How can I find out where 1080, or any other pesticide, is being used or may be used in the future?
  5. How can I keep native species safe while trapping possums?
  6. Can I keep possums as pets?

Native and endangered species

How do I report sightings of native species?

You can submit them online to the New Zealand Biodiversity Recording Network.

Find out how to report sick, injured and dead wildlife.

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Do I need permission to collect feathers, shells and other native/natural materials?

The most important thing to do before collecting anything is to check whose land you want to collect it from, and to seek the landowner's prior permission.

For land administered by DOC the rules applying to the taking or collecting of feathers, shells and other native/natural materials (and also plants and minerals) vary, depending on whether the relevant land is a national park, a reserve, or a conservation area, which will involve differing considerations and requirements. The safest thing to do is to seek prior permission from the relevant DOC office.

For feathers or other parts of the bodies of absolutely or partially protected wildlife (defined under the Wildlife Act), and their eggs, it is illegal anywhere in New Zealand to collect them without prior written approval from DOC.

All species of red coral and black coral are absolutely protected under the Wildlife Act.

For shells, no permission is needed unless they are taken from a category of land with a special status e.g. a national park (see earlier comments).

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I’ve found this bird/plant/lizard/etc – can you help me identify it?

The DOC website provides information about many of our native species, but it is by no means exhaustive. If you cannot identify your ‘find’ using the information provided on this site then you should consider some of the websites listed below, or perhaps visit your local library – most have good species identification books. Andrew Crowe's series of identification books is excellent.

To identify birds try these websites:

To identify plants try these websites:

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Are there any circumstances where native birds may be killed?

Under section 53 of the Wildlife Act 1953 the Director-General may, amongst other things, authorise in writing any specified person to hunt or kill native birds that are causing, have caused, or are likely to cause, damage. The Director-General must first be satisfied that injury or damage to:

  • any person or
  • any land or
  • any stock or crops or
  • any chattel or
  • other wildlife

has arisen or is likely to arise through the presence on any land of native birds.

Authority to disturb or kill protected birds is required at airports throughout New Zealand to allow airport authorities to control bird hazard at airfields. Permits giving such authority are issued under section 54 of the Wildlife Act 1953.

Some native birds are declared to be game (First Schedule of the Wildlife Act) and are subject to the provisions that relate to the killing of game.

Some native birds are listed in the Second Schedule of the Wildlife Act as partially protected species. This allows them to be hunted or killed by the occupier or others authorised by the occupier if they are causing injury or damage. Provided the land is not a wildlife sanctuary or refuge.

Some native birds are listed in the Third Schedule of the Wildlife Act and may be hunted or killed subject to the Minister's notification.

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Where can I see a kākāpō?

Kākāpō are rare, nocturnal and secretive, making them very hard to find.

There are no kākāpō on display in captivity. They live on two predator-free islands – Whenua Hou/Codfish and Anchor Islands. Whenua Hou/Codfish is a nature reserve and no unauthorised landing is allowed. Anchor Island is part of Fiordland National Park, which you can visit.

Disease is a real and significant risk to the kākāpō population; and this risk is increased by human visitation so contact is kept to a minimum.

Having said this, it is not impossible to see a kākāpō.

  • Volunteering on one of the islands where the kākāpō live may reward you. Find out more on the Kākāpō Recovery Programme website
  • Sirocco, our offiical spokesbird for conservation, is a kākāpō that has been imprinted on humans. Although he still lives in the wild he does make special appearances around the country. Follow Sirocco on Facebook or Twitter to find out if there are any upcoming opportunities to visit him.

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What should I plant to attract native birds to my garden?

Our attracting native birds to your garden pages provide a useful place to start. There is advice on what to consider when planning and planting a garden to attract native birds. It includes a selection of plants that provide food and shelter for wildlife. Their size, botanical name, common name and special features are provided. A month-by-month calendar showing when native plants will provide nectar, fruit or seeds for birds.

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Is there a book or website about what native plants grow best where and how to care for native plants?

Type 'Growing New Zealand Native Plants' into a search engine to get a list of reference books and websites.

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Do you have a comprehensive list of NZ native plants?

New Zealand Plant Conservation Network website has a comprehensive list of New Zealand plants.

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Pests and weeds

Do you have a plant pest/weed identification list?

DOC has a lead role in Weedbusters, a public awareness and education programme about invasive weeds. Visit the Weedbusters website to find an A-Z list of invasive weeds and lots of other information to help combat the spread of weeds.

For a list of weed species that cannot be sold, propagated or distributed in New Zealand check out the National Pest Plant Accord.

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Where should I report biosecurity issues (like Argentine ant sightings)?

If you think you have found a pest, plant disease or animal disease, that should not be in New Zealand, please call MAF’s toll free, 24 hour emergency hotline 0800 80 99 66. Biosecurity issues are found on the Ministry for Primary Industries Biosecurity NZ website.

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Can you tell me about didymo and what to do to help stop spreading it?

Didymo is a type of freshwater alga and an Unwanted Organism (under the Biosecurity Act 1993). The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry is the lead agency responsible for biosecurity issues like didymo. You can find comprehensive information about didymo on the Ministry for Primary Industries Biosecurity NZ website.

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How can I find out where 1080, or any other pesticide, is being used or may be used in the future?

Each conservancy issues a pesticide summary every four months telling the public where pesticides are being used on lands managed or administered by DOC. These can be viewed at the local DOC visitor centre or on our pesticide summaries pages.

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How can I keep native species safe while trapping possums?

Talk to your local or regional council. Useful material can also be found on the National Possum Control Agencies website.

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Can I keep possums as pets?

You can only keep a possum as a pet if you first obtain a permit to do so from the Director-General of Conservation under section 12(5) of the Wild Animal Control Act 1977. It is illegal to keep a possum as a pet without a permit. Find out about permits on our research, collection and wildlife permits pages.

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