Prior to the arrival of the first human settlers in roughly the 13th century AD, New Zealand's entire mammal population consisted of just a few bat species and several dozen species of marine mammals, such as whales, dolphins, seals, and sea lions. However, with the arrival of Maori settlers from Polynesia, the fauna of New Zealand began to change, as mammals such as the Polynesian dog and the Polynesian rat were introduced. The arrival of European settlers in the late 18th century changed the ecosystem even more dramatically, with the introduction of a variety of other mammals ranging from pigs and sheep to cats and rabbits.
Wild, wild life:
- The country's three native bat species are the New Zealand long-tailed bat, the New Zealand lesser short-tailed bat, and the New Zealand greater short-tailed bat, the latter of which is critically endangered.
- New Zealand has no native snakes, and the effort to keep them out includes a law against owning one.
- The kiwi is arguably New Zealand's most famous native species. This bird is so well known that its name is also used as a nickname for New Zealanders. The kiwi can't fly, has no tail, and its feathers resemble fur.