New Zealand consists mainly of two large islands, North Island and South Island, plus several smaller ones, including Stewart Island. North Island is volcanically active with a central plateau. South Island has the snow-covered mountain peaks of the Southern Alps and glaciers. To the north, south and east lies the South Pacific Ocean, to the west the Tasman Sea.
Rich marine life is found off of New Zealand’s extensive coastline, including many species of whales, seals and dolphins. The Maui’s dolphin, found off the west coast of North Island, is the rarest marine dolphin in the world, with an estimated 110 left in the wild. On land, one finds unique flightless birds, including the country’s iconic kiwi as well as critically endangered kapakos and takahes. The giant moa bird became extinct about 500 years ago.
New Zealand’s wildlife is threatened by habitat loss, pollution and introduced species such as rats, possums and stoats. Other environmental problems facing New Zealand include deforestation, air pollution from cars and soil erosion.