Nicola Toki is DOC's Threatened Species Ambassador. A self-confessed Nature Nerd, she has worked for conservation for over ten years.


Nicola worked on Meet the Locals, a TVNZ series of mini wildlife documentaries showcasing New Zealand's amazing nature. She researched, wrote and presented over 200 episodes, and has also written two kid's books on New Zealand ecology. 

We caught up with Nicola to find out what she loves about working for conservation, and how she ended up as DOC's Threatened Species Ambassador.

Nicola with a weta on her head.

How did you develop your love of nature?

I was very lucky in that my parents took my brother and I camping a lot as kids, as well as fishing and hunting rabbits.

We were born in Southland, where I spent a lot of time in the native bush up the back of my Nana's farm. The we moved to Mount Cook National Park, and the Mackenzie Country, so we were always outside having adventures!

How did you end up with the role of Threatened Species Ambassador?

I studied Zoology and Law at University, then did a post graduate diploma in Natural History Filmmaking and Communication. I then worked in ecotourism (taking people swimming with Hector's dolphins) and a few other jobs before I landed my first job at DOC twelve years ago in Otago.

I've also worked for Forest and Bird and TBfree New Zealand. Most recently I managed the Living Water partnership between DOC and Fonterra in the South Island, before starting this job, which is my dream job!

What's your favourite quote?

I have a couple!

"Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you". — Frank Lloyd Wright.

"They are our national monuments. They are our Tower of London, our Arc de Triomphe, our pyramids. We don't have this ancient architecture that we can be proud of and swoon over in wonder, but what we do have is something that is far, far older than that.

No one else has kiwi, no one else has kakapo. They have been around for millions of years, if not thousands of millions of years. And once they are gone, they are gone forever. And it's up to us to make sure they never die out." — Don Merton, Conservation legend (1939 –2011).

Nicola with conservation dogs.
That awkward (but hilarious) moment when a conservation dog licks your ear just as someone takes a photo

The best piece of advice you've ever been given is...

Believe in fate, but lean forward into it – Graham Sydney said that at a guest lecture I attended once.

Also "kill them with kindness" – my Mum.

What motivates you in your work and your life?

My amazing colleagues at DOC and in the wider conservation sector.

I am in awe of the dedication, heart, soul, blood and tears of rangers, scientists and volunteers who sit up all night watching kakapo chicks; or lifting kiwi eggs; who dangle from trees to find orange fronted kakariki nests; who take DNA samples from whales; attach satellite tags to great white sharks; who hang off cliffs to get rid of weeds; who help local schools and kindies get in touch with nature, who in a myriad of uncountable ways stand up for the protection of our wildlife.

Nicola at Kids Greening Taupo event.
Nicola at a Kids Greening Taupo event

If you could give New Zealanders one piece of conservation advice, what would it be?

Get out there and discover your nature!

One third of New Zealand belongs to you. Once you begin to 'tune in' to the natural world, you won't be able to stop discovering amazing things about our incredible wildlife and wild places (and you'll probably turn into a Nature Nerd like me).

Most people don't know that...

I am learning how to play roller derby in my spare time.

The song that always cheers you up is...

Cool Change – by Little River Band.

Where's your happy place?

Outside in my backyard with my hubby and my two year old son Hunter, plus the dogs and the chooks.

If you could trade places with someone for a week – famous or not famous, living or dead, real or fictional – it would be...

David Attenborough.

If you could be any New Zealand native species, what would you be?

This is the toughest one!

A fantail, a Hector's dolphin, a falcon, a giant weta and a kea... can't pick one!

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