New Zealand sea lions lying on Sandy Bay, Enderby Islands. Image: Jo Hiscock | DOC


New Zealand's subantarctic islands are among the world’s least modified environments and home to diverse and abundant animals and plants.

New Zealand's subantarctic islands are wild and beautiful places. They are home to some of the most abundant and unique wildlife on earth: many birds, plants and invertebrates are found nowhere else in the world. The subantarctic islands are particularly renowned for the large number and diversity of penguins and other seabirds that nest there.

All the subantarctic islands are National Nature Reserves, the highest possible conservation status. They have also been honoured with World Heritage status, meaning they represent the best of the world’s natural heritage and rate alongside the Grand Canyon and Mount Everest.

Despite the remote location of these islands the lure to study, visit and preserve the historic fabric on the islands is high.

To find out about the recent work on these fascinating islands check out the Subantartic Scribe newsletter.

You can help

While only a few people will have the opportunity to visit the subantarctic islands, public support for conserving the islands, and the species they sustain, is vital.

New Zealand fur seal with plastic netting around its neck.Image: Steve Cranwell.
New Zealand fur seal with plastic netting around it's neck

  • There are occasionally opportunities for the public to assist with work programmes on the subantarctic islands. See Southland's volunteer opportunities.
  • Support sustainable fisheries. Thousands of seabirds are killed each year as bycatch to the fisheries industry. Although these deaths are unintentional it is important that commercial fishing practises improve. Learn more about this issue, and commit to sustainable seafood choices whenever you can.
  • Plastic kills. Albatross chicks and marine mammals can die from ingesting plastic. Reduce the amount of plastic you use and dispose of it properly.

The information presented in these web pages is largely taken from the book Subantarctic New Zealand – A Rare Heritage, written by Neville Peat for DOC. If you are interested in a copy of this fascinating book, contact

Back to top