Skinks safe near Wanaka

Central Otago Mirror - - CENTRAL NEWS - By JESSICA MAD­DOCK

Fears the Otago and Grand skinks could be ex­tinct within a decade have been eased by Auck­land Zoo spon­sor­ship of skink pro­tec­tion work near Wanaka. The zoo’s con­ser­va­tion fund has given an ini­tial grant of more than $17,000 to con­trol preda­tors and mon­i­tor the skinks – which are among New Zealand’s most en­dan­gered lizards – in the Grand­view moun­tain range. It is the be­gin­ning of a five-year spon­sor­ship of the Depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion’s ( DOC) lo­cal skink pro­tec­tion pro­ject. The Otago skinks and Grand skinks are found only found in Otago and both are crit­i­cally en­dan­gered, to the same ex­tent as the takahe and kakapo. They once lived through­out Otago’s tus­sock and schist ar­eas, but are now mainly found only at Macraes Flat, where DOC does preda­tor con­trol work. There are also a few of the skinks in the Lindis area. They are one of the coun­try’s largest lizards, grow­ing to 30cm long, and they live at least 18 years in the wild. Auck­land Zoo’s New Zealand fauna cu­ra­tor Richard Gib­son said DOC’s work in eastern Otago had shown how im­por­tant preda­tor con­trol was for the sur­vival of the skinks, and other na­tive rep­tiles. The zoo’s fund­ing has been used to lay 19 kilo­me­tres of trap lines, or 168 traps, in the high tus­sock grass­lands of the Grand­view range, which would pro­vide pro­tec­tion for 580 hectares of the skinks’ habi­tat. The traps were checked ear­lier this month and 18 preda­tors were caught, de­spite the re­cent Tb poi­son­ing op­er­a­tion. They in­cluded fer­rets, stoats, hedge­hogs, mice and pos­sums.

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