The Sanctuary

ZEALANDIA is the world’s first fully-fenced urban ecosanctuary, with an extraordinary 500-year vision to restore a Wellington valley’s forest and freshwater ecosystems as closely as possible to their pre-human state. The 225 hectare (500+ acre) ecosanctuary is a groundbreaking conservation project that has reintroduced 18 species of native wildlife back into the area, some of which were previously absent from mainland New Zealand for over 100 years. 

Set around a picturesque reservoir, ZEALANDIA is home to some of New Zealand's most rare and extraordinary wildlife - all thriving wild in a world-first protected sanctuary.


Prior to the arrival of humans, Aotearoa (New Zealand) was isolated and unique. Without any mammalian predators an ecosystem of remarkable flora and fauna had evolved – the likes of which could be found nowhere else in the world. Sadly, over the last 700 years, that paradise was almost destroyed by humans and the mammals they introduced with them.

Introduced predators decimated New Zealand's native and endemic species, who had evolved without needing defence from mammals for millions of years. Since human arrival, at least 51 bird species, three frog species, three lizard species, one freshwater fish species, one bat species, four plant species, and a number of invertebrate species have become extinct.

Wild – as nature intended.

ZEALANDIA has a vision to restore this valley to the way it was before the arrival of humans. With its 8.6km fence keeping out introduced mammallian predators, birds such as the tūī, kākā and kererū, once extremely rare in the region, are all now common sights around central Wellington. Other vulnerable native species such as tīeke, hihi, little spotted kiwi, and tuatara remain thriving safely in the sanctuary.


Illustration of a Haast's Eagle attacking a Moa


New Zealand’s flora and fauna differs from every other large land-mass on earth due to its long isolation and uniqueness as a (near) mammal-free environment. The isolated species living here were affected dramatically around 800 years ago, when humans from Polynesia settled in New Zealand. Not long afterwards the first Europeans arrived and both, with the help of introduced pests, began to deplete species around them and clear vast tracts of land. They brought with them a multitude of mammalian pests. Still chewing the life out of our New Zealand bush, these pests are bringing about a grim ending to an almost inconceivably long history of unique and beautiful life.

This trend continued into the early 1990's, when Wellington was in a biologically poor state with native flora and fauna in danger of local extinction and very little happening on the ground other than small-scale planting schemes. Drastic measures needed to be taken to ensure the survival of our species.


The Continent of Zealandia


Rewind 80 million years to better understand why our native wildlife is so unique and so vulnerable. Keep reading.

Karori Before the Fence


See how our sanctuary valley has changed with human arrival, from a Māori hunting ground to an historic water source. Keep reading.

A World-First Sanctuary


How such a crazy idea went from dream to reality and the steps that had to be taken to get there. Keep reading.



ZEALANDIA is about the most biodiversity-rich square mile of mainland New Zealand in terms of the species living wild here. Over forty different species of native birds have been recorded in our sanctuary valley, twenty-four of them endemic (found in no other country). Dozens of reptile species, hundreds of plant species and thousands of kinds of invertebrates have made ZEALANDIA their home. Many of the animals and plants you will see at ZEALANDIA are highly endangered, and some are practically extinct in areas not protected by managed like ours.


Forty different species of native birds have been recorded in our sanctuary valley, twenty-four of them endemic (found in no other country). Check out some of the species you may encounter

Reptiles, Frogs & Invertebrates

New Zealand’s reptiles, insects, and amphibians have changed remarkably little since they were roaming the earth with the dinosaurs. Check out some of the ones you might spot in the sanctuary


Around 80% of New Zealand’s native plants and trees are found nowhere else in the world! Very few native trees drop their leaves in autumn so our forest is always green and lush. Check out some of the flora you may see


 Who We Are

ZEALANDIA is managed by Karori Sanctuary Trust, a not-for-profit community-led organisation. The Trust’s official vision is to be a world-class conservation site portraying our natural heritage that captures people’s imagination, understanding and commitment.


Our People


We are a non-profit trust with a small team of staff helped by over 500 volunteers. Learn more.

Our Purpose


Connecting people with nature and a 500-year restoration vision. Learn More.

Reports and Awards


Our work in conservation, research, education, tourism, and engagement. Learn More.



Our Supporters

ZEALANDIA is managed by Karori Sanctuary Trust: a not-for-profit charitable trust. We rely on a variety of sources for funding and other support. The Trust gratefully acknowledges the support of its sponsors and partners who are involved in a range of different initiatives. If you would like to find out more about how you, or your organisation, can support the work of Karori Sanctuary Trust then please contact us.

 Wellington City Council 

 Victoria University     Department of Conservation Logo        Wellington Tenths Trust Logo         

          NZCT Logo


    Russell McVeagh Logo         

  Holdsworth Charitable Trust   R & D Evans Charitable Trust    WN Pharazyn Charitable Trust                 



Community Supporters


 NZ Lottery Grants Logo        Lions Logo        Forest and Bird Logo        



Founding Supporters

Fletcher Trust Logo       GWRC Logo       Keith Taylor Charitable Trust       NZ Lottery Grants Logo        Todd Foundation Logo      

         Wellington Community Trust Logo


Other Supporters


A.J. Wills

Dorothy L Newman Charitable Trust

Conservation Volunteers New Zealand

Endangered Species Foundation

Ernst & Young

Greater Wellington Regional Council

Harbour City Security

Hutt Mana Charitable Trust

Hyve Communications

Landcare Research

Massey University

Meridian Energy



Ministry of Education

Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

Ngāti Kōata

Ngāti Kuia

Ngāti Manuhiri

Ngāti Paoa

Ngai Tahu

Ngāti Toa

Ornithological Society of New Zealand


Steam and Sand

Taranaki Whānui ki Te Upoko o Te Ika

Te Atiawa ki Whakarongotai

Te Kawerau a Maki


Waikato University

Wellington Botanical Society

Wellington Zoo

Weta Digital

Woolyarns Ltd

WWF New Zealand

Zero Invasive Predators (ZIP)