Editor’s note: this article was first published on 23 November 2020 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
New Zealand is known for many things: vast, rolling hills; uninterrupted grassland; picturesque landscapes; being the filming location of Lord of the Rings; and the abundance of sheep.
But did you know that beyond just sheep, the country is also the home to many superstar animals? We might not be able to travel right at this moment, but these celebrity animals are most definitely looking forward to meeting you when the time comes!
Young Ken the Kea
Young Ken found fame after interrupting a horse-riding lesson in the South Island town of Nelson. The Department of Conservation (DoC) had initially asked residents not to feed or play with him as they were worried that Ken would get too reliant on and trusting of humans and be unable to survive in the wild. But Ken had his own plans.
The kea preferred the suburban lifestyle to that of the wilderness, and now spends his time taunting pets, shooing humans off their own decks, and generally “throwing things around and having a good old play”. He can regularly be seen expanding his social circle and getting to know his neighbours.
Ken can be spotted up and down the coast and in the middle of Nelson city occasionally. These days, it seems he wishes to further integrate in the suburban lifestyle and has been found gazing longingly through windows at the people inside. To remain invested in the journey of Ken, check out the kea database!
Mittens the Vagabond Cat
Mittens is a large Turkish Angora cat and rules over central Wellington with his furry fist. The feline is so well-regarded he was once in the running for New Zealander of the year! Mittens’ daily shenanigans include taking naps in offices and libraries, and being a calendar model in his free time.
Beyond his daily naps, Mittens finds pleasure in responding to the calls of motor vehicles. If doors are not opened for him, Mittens is undeterred and has been known to jump through open car windows at stop lights. The vagabond cat is now an official resident of the city, and the SPCA requests for you to let him do his thing. Paying a visit to New Zealand? We’re sure the superstar cat will be happy to grace you with his presence!
Steve and Dave Jr (DJ)
Steve and DJ, the giant goats, call the city of Auckland their home. Much like Mittens, they have a penchant for cars and have been sighted around the city frequenting farmers’ markets. We’re sure Singaporeans can appreciate the mindset of these goats as they trot around looking for a good bargain!
The two goats are part of a family that have become local celebrities in Auckland. Their size can measure up to that of a small cow; Steve is three years old, around two metres tall and 106kg. They fully embrace their size and can often be found taking in some Vitamin D on the city’s beaches.
Grant Solley, the goats’ owner, has said that Steve is definitely aware of his celebrity status and is happy to pose for photo opportunities. The next time you’re in New Zealand, be sure to meet with these gentle giants to get a photo with one of New Zealand’s biggest celebrities!
Burt Chop might look like a sheep, but he’s actually the wolf in sheep’s clothing that we grew up hearing in children’s tales!
In the past, Burt Chop didn’t have a mum and the other sheep got a bit too rough with the young lamb. Eventually, he was moved into the human house for hand-rearing and found his family there with the dogs. His owner, Naomi Abraham, describes him as the most useless sheep on the farm, but Burt Chop is most definitely the most talented of the lot! The sheep can jump, swim, and run just as well as his wolf ancestors.
His talents are not put to waste either, as Burt Chop is a full-on TikTok celebrity! The sheep has over 70,000 followers on TikTok — talk about celebrity status! For a glimpse of the superstar sheep/dog, you can find him when driving past farms on the Banks Peninsula.
Sirocco, the $80,000 kākāpō, flies in a private plane, and has his own little island, but hasn’t done anything in particular to deserve this sycophantic treatment. In fact, his greatest achievement was going viral after attempting to make love to the unwilling head of a zoologist during a Stephen Fry documentary. Despite his amorous efforts, his desires unfortunately do not extend to his same species and he has failed to produce any offspring in his 23 years.
Despite his lack of success on the romantic front, New Zealand’s Department of Conservation deem him worth the insurance money due to his marketing success. The lifestyle influencer has around 235,000 Facebook fans who hang on to his daily antics which include swimming in the sea and enjoying florets of broccoli. Being hand-reared since young, the parrot loves his human friends and can be found these days hanging out at Orokonui Ecosanctury in Dunedin.
Draco (and other good penguins)
Draco and his waddle of penguins can be found in the Little Penguin rehabilitation facility in Napier, home to abandoned and rehabilitated penguins. The gang found fame after the National Aquarium decided to hold the penguins accountable to their actions and have a monthly “naughty” and “nice” ranking for the penguins.
Draco was named the Penguin of the Year by popular vote after an international voting competition in 2019. He’s known to be a great neighbour, babysitter, and protector of bullied penguins. Recently, Draco’s title has been upended by 2020’s Penguin of the Year, Captain!
To pay a visit to these mischievous birds, be sure to include the National Aquarium of New Zealand in your bucket list as you’re dreaming up travels in a post-pandemic world.