Conservation Week 1-9 November 2014 - Discover the world where you live.

Lizards can thrive in suburban gardens and rural properties if you meet their needs for food and shelter. Learn how to make inviting homes for geckos and skinks.

Common skink.
Make homes for lizards like this one

Get involved in conserving these special creatures by creating an inviting home for them in your garden.

Did you know?

  • More than 99 species of lizard live in New Zealand
  • We have geckos and skinks, and 33 of our skinks are found nowhere else in the world
  • Lizards help scatter the seeds of some of our native plants and may also pollinate their flowers.
  • Lizards will love your backyard if they have food and shelter

Prepare your garden

Untidy gardens are great for lizards. They need places to hide and cover when hunting, feeding and resting, they also need shelter when it’s really hot or really cold.

Lizards like to squeeze into body sized holes no more than 5-19 mm wide.

They like plenty of holes because many lizards are territorial so they need their own space. They like their homes to stay in one place too. If it’s disturbed, they’ll move out and they might not have anywhere else to go.

Lizards need escape sites and they don’t really mind what they’re made of. Any old non-toxic building like old roofing iron can become a good home for lizards. Plants can grow around or over them so they can look quite tidy.

Look around your backyard and find a warm, dry, sunny place. The most important thing for lizards is cover. You can use rock or wood piles to create some cover.

Use rock piles to create cover for lizards

Use old concrete, bricks and stones and stack them loosely so there are plenty of cracks and holes. Spiders, slaters and beetles will head inside, especially when it’s cold. That’s good news for the lizards that feed on them.

Smear yoghurt on some stones and lichens might grow. If your rock pile turns into a rockery, plant bulbs like crocuses between the rocks. Your insects will have an early nectar and pollen supply.

Use wood piles to create cover for lizards

A good pile of dead wood is an adventure playground for lizards.

Pile up a few logs and bits of wood and leave them to slowly rot, undisturbed. Let the fungi grow! It takes hold and helps recycle rotting wood by breaking it down. It makes good food for slugs and snails which in turn attracts birds.

Make an Onduline lizard home

Purpose-built lizard home using onduline roof tiles. Photo: S Mankelow.
Onduline lizard home

Onduline is an extremely tough, lightweight corrugated roofing and cladding product made from organic fibres saturated with bitumen.

Sheets are 2 m long and can be cut into smaller pieces (290 mm x 400 mm or larger) with a handsaw or skillsaw. These should be stacked two or three-high with small stones in between the layers.

Place your lizard home in a warm, dry sunny area with good cover such as divaricating shrubs, tussocks and rock piles. Once in place do not disturb your lizard home. Prospective tenants will abandon habitat that is frequently disturbed.

Grow plants in your backyard that will attract lizards

Plant thickly is the rule. Lizards need safe habitats to run to when cats are on the prowl. That means thick ground-cover, vines and dense plant growth on banks.

Berry or nectar producing plant species are good, especially native divaricating shrubs, and if you have a range of plants the lizards will have plenty to eat, all year round.

Coprosma species and kawakawa provide fruit and flax, while mānuka and rātā give nectar.

Ferns, tussock grasses and rengarenga provide thick ground cover and attract insects for the lizards to eat. Plants like speargrass and the shrubby tororaro offer protection from predators.

Vines like New Zealand clematis and climbing rata connect habitats, and cabbage trees form in clumps for good cover.

A local nursery should have a range of plants native to your area and if you grow organically or limit the sprays you use, your lizards will do very well indeed.

More tips

  • Mulch your garden heavily – it will improve water retention for plants and also create a humid environment for lizards and their invertebrate prey.
  • Try growing organically or minimise the use of sprays to ensure that insect populations thrive. Allow vines to grow a long way up walls or steep embankments, so animals can easily move up and down.
  • Provide lots of debris such as rotting logs, bark chips, rock and boulder piles, untreated timber, corrugated iron and firewood, and encourage plants to grow around it.
  • Design stone walls, retaining walls or embankments that have plenty of small gaps, cracks and crevices, and encourage fungi, plants and vines to grow on them.
  • Be patient. If your lizards have already gone, it may be a little while before they return.

Lizards are protected

All native lizard species are protected by the Wildlife Act and may not be captured, collected or deliberately disturbed without a permit issued by DOC. Generally lizards may only be kept in captivity or collected for scientific, educational or advocacy purposes. Getting to know the habits of these secretive critters in your own lizard-friendly backyard is a far more rewarding alternative!

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Contacts

To find out how you can get involved in conservation activities near you, contact your local DOC office