Encyclopaedia of Cryptozoology
Proposed scientific names
Other names Kaurehe, kaureke, New Zealand otter, South Island otter, waitoreki, waitoteke
Country reported New Zealand
First reported 1839
Prominent investigators Walter Mantell
• Richard Taylor
• Julius von Haast
• Ferdinand von Hochstetter
Ingo Krumbiegel
Bernard Heuvelmans
Malcolm Smith

The waitoreke is a cryptid reported from New Zealand's South Island, described as a semiaquatic otter-like mammal. Its supposed presence in New Zealand has always been considered anomalous, as the islands are not known to be home to any endemic terrestrial mammals.[1] It is sometimes considered synonymous with a second mammalian cryptid of New Zealand, the kaurehe, which is also sometimes considered a distinct cryptid.[2][3]






'otter,' or 'possibly the seal'.

Early information on the kaurehe was collected by naturalist Walter Mantell (1820 – 1895), son of the palaeontologist Gideon Mantell. Walter Mantell heard of this animal while at Arowhena, near modern Timaru.[1] The elder Mantell made note of this in an article on New Zealand geology in 1850, excising the animal's long description but quoting his son's first mention of it:[7]

About ten miles inland of Arowenua, the Kāurěke–the only native quadruped besides the field-rat in which we have any reasonable grounds for believing–is said still to exist.
It may not be irrelevant to add, that in the course of Mr. Walter Mantell's journey from Banks's Peninsula along the coast to Otago, he learned from the natives that they believed there still existed in that country the only indigenous terrestrial quadruped, except a species of rat, which there are any reasonable grounds for concluding New Zealand ever possessed. While encamping at Arowenua, in the district of Timaru, the Maoris assured them that about ten miles inland there was a quadruped which they called Káureke, and that it was formerly abundant, and often kept by their ancestors in a domestic state as a pet animal. It was described as about two feet in length, with coarse grizzly hair; and must have more nearly resembled the otter or badger than the beaver or the Ornithorhynchus, which the first accounts seem to suggest as the probable type. The offer of a liberal reward induced some of the Maoris to start for the interior of the country where the Káureke was supposed to be located; but they returned without having obtained the slightest trace of the existence of such an animal. My son, however, expresses his belief in the native accounts, and that, if the creature no longer exists, its extermination is of very recent date.




My friend Haast writes to me on this subject under date of June 6. 1861: "At a height of 3500 feet above the level of the tea I frequently saw its tracks on the upper Ashburton River (Prov. Canterbury, South Island), in a region never before trodden by man. They resemble the tracks of our European otter, -- only a little smaller. The animal itself, however, was likewise seen by two gentlemen, who have a sheep-station at Lake Heron not far from the Ashburton, 2100 feet high. They describe the animal as dark-brown, of the size of a stout cony. On being struck at with the whip, it uttered a shrill, yelping sound, and quickly disappeared in the water amid the sea-grass."


During my last journey, I again observed very often the tracks of the supposed Quadruped, but although I had a capital dog with me, I never succeeded in obtaining the owners of the feet, which had imprinted them. It seems almost to me that the animal enters its hole from below the surface of the water like the otter.

Current status

Excepting an alleged photograph taken from a distance in 1971,[8]



Christine Janis argued that, as New Zealand was believed to have no endemic land mammals, there is no biogeographical reason that the waitoreke must be a platypus, particularly as this monotreme is a freshwater animal. One of Janis' preferred candidates is the Australian water rat (Hydromys chrysogaster) of Australia, Papua New Guinea, and the Philippines, which is often mistaken for a platypus in Australia. If the waitoreke did indeed come to New Zealand with the Maori, Janis argues that this rodent, less specialised and more agile than the platypus, would be more likely to have survived the journey.[10]


Notes and references

  1. 1.0 1.1 Heuvelmans, Bernard (1955) On the Track of Unknown Animals, Routledge, ISBN 978-1138977525
  2. Eberhart, George M. (2002) Mysterious Creatures: A Guide to Cryptozoology, ABC-CLIO, Inc., ISBN 1576072835
  3. Heuvelmans, Bernard "Annotated Checklist of Apparently Unknown Animals With Which Cryptozoology Is Concerned", Cryptozoology, No. 5 (1986)
  4. Colarusso, John "Platypuses, Proof, and Possibilities," Cryptozoology, No. 8 (1989)
  5. Colarusso, John "Waitoreke, the New Zealand 'Otter:' a Linguistic Solution to a Cryptozoological Problem," Cryptozoology, No. 7 (1988)
  6. Ley, Willy (1959) Exotic Zoology, Viking Press
  7. Mantell, Gideon "Notice of the Remains of the Dinornis and other Birds, and of Fossils and Rock-specimens, recently collected by Mr. Walter Mantell in the Middle Island of New Zealand; with Additional Notes on the Northern Island," Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society, Vol. 6 (February 1850)
  8. Hascombe, Jane (1975) Over the Hills But Not to Stay
  9. Krumbiegel, Ingo "Das 'Waitoreki,' ein Angeblick neues Saiigetier von Neuseeland," Zeitschrift fur Saiigetierkunde, No. 18 (1950)
  10. Janis, Christine "A Reevaluation of Some Cryptozoological Animals," Cryptozoology, No. 6 (1987)
  11. Smith, Malcolm (2021) Bunyips and Bigfoots: Up-Dated Second Edition, ASIN B08VYDC728