Skinks safe near Wanaka
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.