Hebe, Maud Island
PHOTO: Sabine Bernert ©

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Maud Island in the Marlborough Sounds is a predator-free scientific reserve which is a sanctuary for rare and endemic native species. Visits are by permission only.

Place overview


  • Bird and wildlife watching

Find things to do Te Pākeka/Maud Island (Scientific Reserve)



Te Pākeka/Maud Island makes an ideal scientific research site given its location and facilities. University students and staff have in recent years carried out research projects on the island involving the Maud Island frog and tree and giant weta.

Volunteer opportunities

Volunteers are welcomed and play an important part in helping with the conservation work on the island.

School visits

School groups also visit to experience the island’s natural world and learn more about conservation. Some of the learning is hands-on with students assisting in maintenance of predator traps and other pest-control work.

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    About this place

    Nature and conservation

    Maud Island's predator-free status makes it a haven for rare and unique wildlife.

    Geckos and skinks

    Maud is also one of only three sites for the vulnerable Stephens Island striped gecko, one of New Zealand’s rarest geckos. The island also harbours very healthy populations of the common gecko, forest gecko, and brown skink. The speckled skink has been introduced as part of restoring the island’s natural biodiversity.

    Maud Island frog on lichen.  Photo copyright: Tui De Roy (DOC USE ONLY).
    Maud Island frog on lichen

    Maud Island frog

    Maud Island's largest mature forest remnant supports virtually the entire population of the threatened pakeka/Maud Island frog – an estimated 20,000.


    The island is a stronghold for a number of invertebrate species now extinct or greatly restricted in range on the mainland. These include the giant flesh-eating snailPowelliphanta hochstetteri obscura, the Cook Strait click beetle and the flax weevil. Tree weta, ground weta and over four species of cave weta also inhabit the island.


    Some species do not naturally occur on the island but have been put there as part of efforts to establish healthy populations in predator-free habitat. The Cook Strait giant weta is one such species, brought to the island in 1977. The move has been a success story with numbers of these gentle giants now in their thousands.

    Takahe, Maud Island. Photo copyright: Tui De Roy (DOC USE ONLY).
    Takahe, Maud Island

    Endangered takahe were first put on Maud Island in 1984 and the island is now an integral part of DOC's Takahe Recovery Programme.


    Other birds inhabiting the island include kereru/New Zealand wood pigeon, tui, bellbird, fantail, pipit, silvereye, shining cuckoo, kingfisher, falcon, kahu/harrier and morepork.

    Around its coast can be found black-backed and red-billed gulls, little blue penguins, variable oystercatchers, reef herons, spotted, pied, little and king shags, fluttering shearwater, Caspian and white-fronted terns, black-fronted terns and arctic skua.


    A 15-hectare remnant in Home Bay exemplifies the original lush forest that covered all of Maud Island before being razed for pasture. Its dominant trees include kohekohe, tawa, nikau, pukatea and mahoe. Large emergent podocarps were also once a significant element of the forest, especially matai, miro and rimu but these were largely lost when the island was cleared.

    The remainder of the island is cloaked in young regenerating forest and scrub communities with a predominance of tauhau, fiver-finger, mahoe, manuka, kaikomako, mamaku/tree fern and exotic species tree lucerne and Spanish heath. The re-vegetation continues to expand in the absence of pests such as possums, goats, rats and deer.

    Several species of plants uncommon in the Marlborough Sounds or rare on the mainland occur naturally on Maud. These include the large-leaved milk tree, hutu, Sonchus kirkii and renga renga lily. A nationally-threatened shrub from Titirangi (Hebe speciosa has been introduced to Maud Island in an effort to establish a second South Island population.

    History and culture

    There is clear evidence of Maori occupation on Te Pākeka/Maud Island. The name Te Pakeka alludes to the extensive gardening that occurred on the island. Five sites of archaeological note are recorded including probable garden areas and food storage pits.

    In 1867 the Crown granted ownership of Maud Island to John Gibson, a farmer. A significant area of the island was cleared of forest for pasture.

    Looking up toward the gun emplacement, Maud Island. Photo: J. L Kendrick.
    Looking up toward the gun emplacement on Maud Island

    During World War Two, a network of military installations was constructed on the island including a gun emplacement and range finding equipment that are still there today. A jetty and roads were built at that time.

    Maud Island first came into service as a wildlife refuge in 1974 when the then owner, Jack Shand, agreed to let the island be used as a home for what at the time was believed to be the last kakapo from Fiordland. The move gave Maud the distinction of being the first safe haven for kakapo. Kakapo remained a part of the island wildlife – with numbers reaching 18 at their peak in 2000 - until May 2003 when the last five were moved from Maud Island to islands more suitable as kakapo habitat.

    Jack Shand gifted some of the island including its forest remnants to the Crown in 1971 and was later instrumental in ensuring the island’s future as a sanctuary when he offered Maud for sale to the Crown. At the time, the cash-strapped Wildlife Service could not afford to pay the $78,000 for the island but the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society secured its purchase by leading a public fund raising campaign. It became the Tom Shand Nature Reserve then later its status was altered to Scientific Reserve.

    Know before you go

    The island is only open to the public for specially-permitted commercial trips in summer or by arrangement with the Department of Conservation. 

    All boats need permission to land. Boats risk bringing pests that threaten the island’s rare and endangered species.

    School and special interest groups can make day visits to the island between February and September, by arrangement with island staff. Volunteering is available as part of programmed week-long volunteer work events. Volunteering is occasionally available for individuals by arrangement with island staff.


    To visit Te Pākeka/Maud Island on a summer trip contact:
    Pelorus Tours, Havelock
    Phone: +64 3 573 4203
    Email: pelorustours@xtra.co.nz

    Maud Island resident rangers
    Email: maudislandfc@doc.govt.nz


    Waitohi / Picton Office
    Phone:   +64 3 520 3002
    Address:   Port Marlborough Building
    14 Auckland Street
    Picton 7220
    Email:   picton@doc.govt.nz
    Full office details
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