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Are There Kangaroos In New Zealand? (EXPLAINED!)

No, Kangaroos are not to be found in the New Zealand wild. Let us explain. New Zealand is a close neighbouring nation to Australia – the real native home of Kangaroos.

However, unlike in Australia, Kangaroos are not native to New Zealand, despite numerous claims by tourists and even locals of Kangaroo sightings.

If by some weird notion, you are abruptly hit with the urge (yes, we’re being dramatic) of wanting to see some Kangaroos while holidaying in New Zealand, you won’t have much luck (or zero luck) finding one in the wild.

In fact, you will have to visit a zoo or an animal sanctuary to see these big fellows.

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What Is A Phantom Kangaroo?

So, despite multiple officials stating on numerous occasions that Kangaroos are not native to New Zealand, and there is little to no chance of finding any in the wild, many travellers and even the locals have sworn they have really seen one.

These reported sightings claim that a kangaroo was indeed spotted when in fact, there was none – that is what we call the ‘Phantom Kangaroo’ phenomenon.

It sounds eerie and fascinating at the same time – wouldn’t you say?

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A Kangaroo? Or A Wallaby?

Ok, so if these travellers and locals did not see a kangaroo, then what exactly did they see to be so convinced? That’s a good question with a super fascinating answer.

Chances are they saw a wallaby. And what’s that you ask?

Well, a wallaby is a member of the Kangaroo family, and they definitely have many kangaroo-like features that could confuse any traveller or local who is not very familiar with these adorable fuzzy creatures.

Like kangaroos, wallabies are recognized as pouched mammals.

And like baby kangaroos, young wallabies will crawl into their mother’s pouch immediately after being born, to continue growing under the loving nurture of their mother till it’s ready to hop out and live their life.

Are Wallabies Native To New Zealand?

Lone Wallaby
Lone Wallaby

Wallabies were actually introduced to New Zealand from Australia by humans in the 19th century, so it’s not appropriate to classify wallabies as native species.

These pouched mammals have a life span of approx. 9 years, and depending on the environment they choose to make their habitat – most locals categorise them as brush or rock wallabies. They are rather shy creatures unless provoked. But they are known to be herbivores.

If you want to spot some wallabies in the wild, you will have some great luck in the Rotorua Lake region and South Canterbury. Wallabies tend to populate fast, and this has turned into a problem in New Zealand.

As unfortunate as that is, the local governments in New Zealand allow certain methods of wallaby population control – like shooting, fencing, and using repellents. (it’s unfortunate, we know)

Kangaroos Vs Wallabies

Two Kangaroos
Pair of Kangaroos

Now that we have established that Kangaroos and Wallabies share many similarities, you also need to be able to tell them apart to avoid a phantom kangaroo situation.


Kangaroos: Their legs seem too big for their body, but there is a reason behind that. It helps with the speed.

Wallabies: Their legs are smaller and more compact than their body, and it is built for agility.


Kangaroos: Usually, their furry coat is softened brown or grey, it’s not exactly eye-catching. (not that we judge)

Wallabies: They have a bit more vibrancy. They come in yellowish browns, orange, white and greyish browns.


Kangaroos: They are usually bigger compared to Wallabies. Some can look really intimidatingly tall. 

Wallabies: They are small in comparison to Kangaroos. However, there are reports of spotting a 6 feet tall Wallaby. So… there you go.

Other Native Mammals In New Zealand

Dolphins in Kaikoura New Zealand
Dolphins in Kaikoura

Intriguingly enough, despite an incredible range of animals calling New Zealand home, bats and marine mammals are the only types of mammals that are native to these lands.


The bat is officially labelled as the only native land mammal in New Zealand.

Two species of bats call New Zealand their native home.

The long-tailed bats are still somewhat in the ‘nationally critical’ stage. Sad as it is, with proper support and awareness, these subspecies can also be saved. If you are a wildlife enthusiast like us, then Geraldine is the best destination to visit to witness these nocturnal beauties.

However, the short-tailed bat is a fascinating subspecies that has moved from nationally vulnerable to now recovering.

If you want to get a glimpse of these bats, you can arrange a tour to Hauturu (Little Barrier Island) near North Island, even Codfish Island further south.


Dolphins are a clear favourite amongst humans. It is obviously because of their beauty and playful behaviour(they are so darn cute!). If you adore dolphins as much as we do, then, you’d be thrilled to know that New Zealand waters are home to 9 dolphin species.

The Hector’s Dolphin is the smallest one, mostly found in the southern waters.

The Māui dolphin is also one of the smallest dolphin species in the world, and they can only be spotted on the west coast of New Zealand’s Northern Island.

Then we can also find Orcas, Bottlenose dolphins, Dusky dolphins, Pilot whales and Common dolphins in these waters.


New Zealand is home to some of the most majestic-looking seals. The New Zealand fur seal (Kekeno) is the most common, which you can easily find on the mainland shores of New Zealand, Chatham Islands and more.

If you are lucky you can grab a glimpse of the Leopard Seal during the Autumn and Winter seasons while in New Zealand, but mainly along the southern ocean shore.

And there is the Southern Elephant Seal that visits the mainland, especially during the breeding season, which falls between September and October.   

Sea Lions

The New Zealand Sea Lions are officially announced as one of the rarest species in the world and they’re only found in New Zealand.

These guys look adorable on a whole new level, especially the pups. There is a population of just 12,000 existing presently. 

You will find them mostly in the Campbell and Auckland subantarctic island regions. Breeding locations for these lovely species are mostly Otago, southland, and the rustic Stewart Island.


Whales are the largest mammals on the planet. Almost half of them are found in the waters off New Zealand. If you are planning the most incredible whale-watching tour, then New Zealand is ideal for that.

From the magnificent Blue Whales to the Humpback Whales to Sperm Whales and the Southern Right Whales (tohorā) these oceans are blessed with the most majestic marine mammals to grace this earth.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Koalas Native to New Zealand?

Koalas are not native to New Zealand. Like Kangaroos, Koalas are only native to Australia.

New Zealand is also not keen on importing any Koalas to New Zealand as the country doesn’t have the necessary resources to provide a healthy living environment.

Is the Kiwi Bird Native to New Zealand?

Yes, Kiwis are native to New Zealand and fall under the category of native land birds. It’s a very special bird to New Zealand, as it is the national icon and symbol of the country.

What is the best time to go whale-watching and dolphin-watching in New Zealand?

November to April. This is also the ideal time to witness seals heading to the shores of New Zealand.

Is there a season for hunting Wallabies in New Zealand?

No. Unfortunately, it’s legal to hunt them throughout the year.