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2001 Year of the Snake - Marine Reptiles

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2001 was the fifth consecutive year that New Zealand Post marked the Chinese Lunar Calendar. Continuing this very popular Lunar series, Marine Reptiles commemorated the Year of the Snake.

Issue information

The Marine Reptiles issue featured six visitors to New Zealand waters comprising four sea-turtles and two sea-snakes. To celebrate the 2001 Year of the Snake - Marine Reptiles, a special miniature sheet was also produced incorporating the two sea-snake stamps.

Marine Reptiles

Sea-turtles and sea-snakes are widespread in tropical and sub-tropical seas, but are rarely seen in colder waters. In this country marine reptiles are most often found in northern New Zealand. Although few sightings are reported, marine reptiles are sometimes seen at sea, caught in nets or found sick, injured or exhausted near the shore line.


Believed to be descended from a family of Australian land-snakes, sea-snakes inhabit the tropical waters of the Indo-Pacific. Although they have a dangerous reputation, sea-snakes tend to be curious rather than aggressive. They are usually venomous and should be treated with caution, however most bites happen on fish trawlers, when sea-snakes are hauled aboard with the catch.

The Banded Sea-snake visits New Zealand in the warmer months with fewer than 10 recorded sightings since 1880, while the Yellow-bellied Sea-snake is seen more frequently in northern New Zealand, although it is likely that many go unnoticed. Both are venomous.


Turtles have lived on earth for a very long time. The first turtle fossils date back to the Triassic period, a time when dinosaurs roamed the earth, some 200 million years ago. There are approximately eight different species of sea-turtles in the world and they generally live in tropical seas.

The Leathery, Hawksbill, Green and Loggerhead Turtles are all found throughout the tropics near coral or rocky reefs or in shallow bays and lagoons. The Leathery Turtle, weighing up to 700kg and reaching 2.8m in total length, is the largest of all living turtles and the most commonly found in New Zealand waters. The Hawksbill Turtle has a marbled shell in shades of brown with yellow below from which the commercial description ‘tortoise shell’ is derived. Both the Green and Loggerhead Turtles are occasional visitors to New Zealand, the Green Turtle was first recorded in 1895 and since 1980 at least 12 have been recorded in our waters, the Loggerhead Turtle was first recorded slightly earlier in 1885 with at least twelve sightings since 1950.

The 2001 Year of the Snake - Marine Reptiles stamp sheets were the very first stamp issue on which a new New Zealand Post corporate logo appeared in colour - the logo appeared once on each sheet in the bottom right selvage.

Miniature Sheet

Incorporating the $1.50 and $2.00 stamps from this issue this miniature sheet commemorated 2001 as the Year of the Snake - Marine Reptiles.

Logo Block

The Marine Reptiles stamp sheets were the very first issue on which the New Zealand Post logo appeared in colour. The new corporate logo appeared on each sheet once.

Product Listing for 2001 Year of the Snake - Marine Reptiles

Image Title Description Price
Single Stamp

Single 40c 'Green turtle' gummed stamp.

The Green turtle have a olive or brown carapace ( their shell above) and yellowish white plastron (below). The carapace grows to just over one metre long, and the maximum weight is about 180 kilogams. They get their common name from the fat which imparts a green colouring. Green turtles are herbivores, feeding mainly on seaweed and seagrass.

Single Stamp

Single 80c 'Leathery turtle' gummed stamp.

Leathery turtles are predominantly dark brown or black above and pale below. They may be blotched, especially on their sides, neck and underparts. The carapace is a mosaic of small, many-sided bony plates covered in leathery skin - hence its name. The carapace has seven longtitudinal ridges, including those on the sides and this makes the swimming turtles look like upturned dinghies. Their foods include salps and jellyfish.

Single Stamp

Single 90c 'Loggerhead turtle' gummed stamp.

Loggerhead turtles are brown or red-brown above and pale below. Their carapace reach a length of about one metre and they can weigh up to 180 kilograms. Loggerhead turtles occur througout the tropics and are relatively uncommon in New Zealand waters, they have been found mostly aroung the North Island. They eat crabs and molluscs.

Single Stamp

Single $1.30 'Hawksbill turtle' gummed stamp.

The shell of the adult Hawksbill turtle is beautifully variegated or marbled with shades of brown. Adults have a carapace of up to one metre long and a maximum weight  of about 6.5 kilograms. The edge of the carapace is strongly serrated and the shields of the carapace overlap like roofing tiles. The eat molluscs ad crustaceans.

Single Stamp

Single $1.50 'BandedSea-snake' gummed stamp.

Banded Sea-snakes grow to about 1.4 metres in total length. They are bluish-grey above and yellowish below, with about 35 prominent, black cross-bands. Their head is small and blunt and they have a row of broad scales along the belly, like land snakes. They are highly venomous and mostly eat small fish which they subdue with their venom.

Single Stamp

Single $2.00 'Yellow-bellied Sea-snake' gummed stamp.

The name yellow-bellied comes from the lower half of the body being yellowish and upper half of the sea-snakes body being dark. The two colours usually meet abruptly to form a straight line along each side.The head is elongated and the tail is yellowish with a striking arrangement of dark spots. They reach a maximum length of one metre. They eat fish.

Miniature Sheet Mint, used or cancelled miniature sheet. $3.50
First Day Cover First day cover with stamps affixed. Cancelled on the first day of issue. $7.40
Miniature Sheet First Day Cover First day cover with miniature sheet affixed. Cancelled on the first day of issue. $4.00

Technical information

Date of issue: 1 February 2001
Number of stamps: Six
Denominations and designs: 40c Green Turtle, 80c Leathery Turtle, 90c Loggerhead Turtle, $1.30 Hawksbill Turtle, $1.50 Banded Sea-snake and $2.00 Yellow-bellied Sea-snake
Stamps and first day cover designed by: Veda Austin, Christchurch, New Zealand
Miniature sheet and miniature sheet first day cover designed by:  Lindy Fisher, Auckland, New Zealand
Printer and process: Southern Colour Print, New Zealand, by offset lithography
Number of colours: Four process colours
Miniature sheet colours: Four process colours pus one special
Stamp size and format: 30mm x 40mm vertical
Miniature sheet size: 125mm x 90mm
Number of stamps per sheet: 100 stamps plus one strip of 10 gutter images
Perforation gauge: 14
Paper type: 103 gsm red phosphor coated litho stamp paper
Special blocks: Plate/imprint blocks could be obtained by purchasing at least six stamps from a sheet. Barcode, value blocks and logo blocks could be obtained by purchasing at least two stamps from a sheet. Barcode blocks were available in both A and B formats for sheet stamps.
Period of sale: These stamps remained on sale until 31 January 2002.