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NZ’s endangered species

To raise awareness of the wild fauna and flora across the globe, World Wildlife Day is being celebrated today.

In New Zealand, there are nearly 4000 plant and animal species in danger of becoming extinct.

The Endangered Species Foundation has compiled a list of New Zealand's most endangered species, ranked in order of those closest to becoming extinct.

The top five most at threat are;

■ Maui dolphin — one of the world's smallest and rarest dolphins. An endemic sub-species closely related to the Hector's dolphin, it is now found only in the shallow coastal waters off the west coast of the North Island. Only between 55 to 63 Maui dolphins remain. Entanglement in fishing nets and debris, mining activity, boat strike, pollution and disease, together with natural factors continue to pose real risks to the species' survival.

■ Canterbury knobbled weevil, which was once widespread but is now down to one small area with less than 100 adults.

■ Mokohinau stag beetle is one of New Zealand's few remaining large beetles. It owes its name to the large antler-like mandibles on the head of the male, which they are thought to use when fighting for mates.

■ Quillwort comes in at number four. It is a primitive aquatic fern endemic to New Zealand, historically found in Northland lakes, now considered extinct in the wild, after it all but disappeared from its last known location at Lake Omapere, following a dramatic decline in water quality.

■ Fairy tern is the most endangered of New Zealand's birds, with only about a dozen pairs surviving on beaches between Whangarei and Auckland.

The encroachment of human activity on their nesting grounds is a major threat to these birds. Beach narrowing, mainly due to housing developments and weed invasion, forces the terns to nest closer to the sea, putting their eggs at risk during storms.