Help identifying an animal, a plant, or a fossil
Te āwhina hei tautohu i tētahi mea

Identify an animal, a plant, or a fossil you’ve found in New Zealand – being careful not to handle protected species. Here you’ll find links to useful identification resources and details on how to ask our science experts for help.

On this page:
Send Te Papa a specimen
Spiders, insects, and other bugs
Birds
Fish
Molluscs
Crustaceans
Plants
Fossils

Send Te Papa a specimen

Most of New Zealand’s animals (even dead ones) are protected under the Wildlife Act 1953 and must not be held without a permit. Additionally, some fossils and plants found on protected sites, such as Department of Conservation reserves, must not be removed.

Summary of Wildlife Act 1953 – Department of Conservation

Please don’t send a specimen to Te Papa before discussing it with us first. If you have a specimen to donate to us in a manner compliant with the Act, please contact us with the details outlined in the relevant section below.

Spiders, insects, and other bugs

Protected bugs

Some bugs, such katipo spiders and some wētā, are protected under the Wildlife Act 1953 and must not be held without a permit. If in doubt, take a photograph and write a description, leaving the bug undisturbed.

To identify a bug, first try these useful resources:

Still stuck? Contact us

Please send us:

  • a detailed description of the bug, including its size
  • one or more photographs of the bug, if possible
  • the location and date you found the bug
  • your name and contact details.

Contact Te Papa with information about a bug

Birds

Protected birds

Almost all of New Zealand’s native birds (even dead ones) are protected under the Wildlife Act 1953 and must not be held without a permit. If in doubt, take a photograph and write a description, leaving the bird undisturbed.

Is the bird banded?

Read our banded bird pages to report banded birds to the Department of Conservation. It may provide you with the history of the banded bird and will appreciate the information you supply.

Identification

To identify a bird, first try these useful resources:

Still stuck? Contact us

If the bird isn’t banded, please send us:

  • a detailed description of the bird, including its size
  • one or more photographs of the bird, if possible
  • the location and date you found the bird
  • (if the bird is dead) the possible cause of death
  • (if you were fishing offshore) the type of fishing vessel you were in
  • Note: when you are fishing, you must obey the Fisheries Act 1996 and other Ministry for Primary Industries regulations regarding seabirds

Ministry for Primary Industries fishing rules

  • your name and contact details
  • (if you didn’t collect the bird) the name and contact details of the collector.

To ensure the best use of a dead bird you’ve found, contact Te Papa or the Department of Conservation as soon as possible. Please don’t send us the bird unless we request it. To temporarily preserve a dead bird, place it in a plastic bag and freeze it.

Contact Te Papa with information about a bird

Fish

Protected fish

Some fish species are protected under the Wildlife Act 1953 and must not be caught without a permit. Harvesting unprotected marine species may still be restricted or prohibited under the Fisheries Act 1996.

Wildlife Act 1953

Fisheries Act 1996

The Ministry for Primary Industries has helpful information about fishing regulations and local fishing rules.

Ministry for Primary Industries fishing rules

Identification

To identify a fish, first try these useful resources:

Still stuck? Contact us

Please send us:

  • a detailed description of the fish, including measurements
  • one or more photographs of the fish, if possible
  • information about where you caught or found the fish:
  • location
  • depth
  • date
  • method of capture
  • your name and contact details
  • (if you didn’t collect the fish) the name and contact details of the collector.

Contact us as soon as possible to ensure the best use of any dead fish found or caught. To temporarily preserve a dead fish, place it in a plastic bag and freeze it – take care not to bend the fins or tail. Please don’t send us the specimen unless we ask you to.

Contact Te Papa with information about a fish

Molluscs

Protected molluscs

Some molluscs, such as giant land snails, are protected under the Wildlife Act 1953 and must not be held without a permit. If in doubt, take a photograph and write a description, leaving the mollusc undisturbed.

Wildlife Act 1953

Identification

To identify a mollusc, first try these useful resources:

Still stuck? Contact us

Please send us:

  • a detailed description of the mollusc, including measurements
  • one or more photographs of the mollusc, if possible
  • the location and date you found the mollusc
  • your name and contact details
  • (if you didn’t collect the mollusc) the name and contact details of the collector.

To temporarily preserve a dead mollusc (not protected by the Wildlife Act), freeze it in a plastic bag with some water. Please don’t send us the specimen unless we ask you to.

Contact Te Papa with information about a mollusc

Crustaceans

Catch limits

Some crustaceans must not be taken unless they are a minimum size. There may also be limits on the number you can take.

See the Ministry for Primary Industries fishing rules for more information

Identification

To identify a crustacean, first try these useful resources:

Still stuck? Contact us

Please send us:

  • a detailed description of the crustacean, including measurements
  • one or more photographs of the crustacean, if possible
  • the location and date you found the crustacean
  • your name and contact details
  • (if you didn’t collect the crustacean) the name and contact details of the collector.

To temporarily preserve a dead crustacean, place it in methylated spirits or other alcohol. Please don’t send us the specimen unless we ask you to.

Contact Te Papa with information about a crustacean

Plants

Protected plants

Never pick a plant without permission from the landowner. You need a permit to pick plants from protected sites, such as Department of Conservation reserves. Some plants are protected and must not be held without a permit. If in doubt, take a photograph and write a description, leaving the plant undisturbed.

Identification

To identify a plant, first try these useful resources:

Still stuck? Contact us

Please send us:

  • a detailed description of the plant, including measurements
  • one or more photographs of the plant, if possible
  • the location and date you found the plant
  • information about the habitat and other relevant details
  • your name and contact details
  • (if you didn’t collect the plant) the name and contact details of the collector.

Please don’t send us the specimen unless we ask you to. To temporarily preserve an uprooted plant, seal it in a bag with a damp piece of paper towel and place it in your fridge.

Contact Te Papa with information about a plant

Fossils

Protected land

Never take a fossil without permission from the landowner. Some fossil sites are on protected land where collecting is prohibited, such as Department of Conservation reserves. If in doubt, take a photograph and description, leaving the fossil undisturbed.

See GNS Science’s advice for fossil hunters for more information.

Identification

To identify a fossil, first try these useful resources:

Still stuck? Contact us

Please send us:

  • a detailed description of the fossil, including measurements
  • one or more photographs of the fossil, if possible
  • the location and date you found the fossil
  • your name and contact details
  • (if you didn’t collect the fossil) the name and contact details of the collector.

Please don’t send us the specimen unless we ask you to.

Contact Te Papa with information about a fossil