Open daily, 10am–5pm, Free

419 Great King Street Dunedin, New Zealand

Nature

Free

Level 3

Unique Otago wildlife, habitats and ecosystems


Highlights

  • The ‘last’ takahē, believed to be the last of its kind until their (re)discovery in 1948
  • A pettable tahr
  • Tuatara, native living fossils of reptiles that lived over 220 million years ago
  • Huia, extinct native birds once prized as zoological oddities and status symbols

 
History

New Zealand’s ecosystems evolved in isolation, uninterrupted by major change for around 80 million years, until the arrival of humans who brought fire, new species and hunting. 

Land birds and fish were the most common large animals in New Zealand prior to the arrival of humans. Two-thirds of the land birds were unique to this country. In isolation, birds had diversified to fill the roles that mammals had elsewhere; some became gigantic, flightless or ground nesting.

Today, we have just a few of the original species once present in Otago. Uniquely New Zealand birds like kiwi, kākāpō, kākā, kākāriki once thrived in the dense bush that covered much of Otago. Though still found elsewhere in New Zealand, they are now locally extinct. Introduced predators, the loss of forest habitats and hunting have all played a part in their demise.

The Nature galleries explore our region's diverse wildlife, from ancient history through to the present day.

 
Facts and figures

  • Opened in 1988
  • 57 different native bird species on display
  • 11 detailed dioramas explore the habitats of New Zealand invertebrates, amphibians and reptiles
  • 178 bones in Autahi's skeleton