The Cyclodina group of lizards contains more rare species than any other group of New Zealand lizard.

Robust skink. Photo: Theo Stephens.
Robust skink

The Cyclodina group  is also notable for containing the smallest indigenous skink - the copper skink (120 mm) - and the largest - the 'presumed extinct' Northland skink (350 mm).

Conservation status

The species contained in the Cyclodina group are listed below.

Not threatened

  • Copper skink

Copper skink. Photo: Dick Veitch.
Copper skink

At risk

  • Poor Knights skink
  • Robust skink
  • McGregor's skink
  • Poor Knights marbled skink
  • Southern marbled skink
  • Mokohinau skink

Chronically threatened

  • Ornate skink

Poor Knights marbled skink. Photo: Ben Barr.
Poor Knights marbled skink

Acutely threatened

  • Whitaker's skink


  • Northland skink

Population and range

All species are confined to the North Island and islands immediately offshore. The geographic range of these species has greatly declined since the arrival of humans in New Zealand.


Habitat depletion is a threat to skinks, especially as a result of agricultural development. Skinks are also sensitive to predation, with rats being the most dangerous predator.

Our work

Recovery plan in action

A DOC recovery plan is currently in action and was approved in 1999, building on an earlier 1992-1997 plan for Cyclodina skink. The recovery plan seeks to review the conservation status and recovery actions required for the entire group of at least 8 species.

The recovery plan sets in place a series of steps that will promote the recovery of Cyclodina. It also outlines different management options, and a work plan.

The long term vision of the recovery plan is 'To improve the conservation status of all 'threatened' (and Category A) species to 'near threatened' (lower risk) or better.'

Cyclodina skink recovery plan (PDF, 1,405K)

Past conservation efforts

The 1992-1997 Cyclodina recovery plan centred on the Whitaker's and robust skink. The goal of this plan was 'To maintain and enhance existing populations of Whitaker's and robust skink, and to improve their conservation status by establishment of at least three new populations of both species by the year 2000.'

The plan achieved the following results:

  • Rodent eradication targets were exceeded on the Mercury Islands, and provided a springboard for many other successful campaigns.
  • The goal of establishing three new populations of Whitaker's skink and robust skink may have been met. However, the rate of increase of these lizards is so low that it may be several years before we know for sure.
  • Establishment of these new populations resulted in greatly increasing the potential range that each species occupies.

Whitaker's skink, Korapuki Island. Photo: D.R. Towns.
Whitaker's skink, Korapuki Island

You can help

Take care on island reserves

Do not bring any unwanted pests to island reserves. A permit from DOC is required to land on most predator-free islands which have important populations of rare cyclodina skinks.

As ship and Norway rats are capable of swimming several hundred metres, even boats moored near these island could accidentally introduce these pests. Keep rodent bait stations on your boat to minimise this risk.

Pest control

Control pest mammals on your property and/or assist in predator control programmes in local skink habitat (forest, scrub or grassland areas). Predation by rats, cats and mustelids is a key threat for skinks and you can help by reducing this pressure on skink populations.

Other ways you can help include:

  • Encouraging and supporting surveys for skinks in areas set for development where cyclodina are known to be
  • Protect areas of skink habitat from development or work with local authorities to rehome skinks affected by development. Covenant areas of forest and regenerating ares.
  • Provide the nearest DOC office with records (photographs) if you find a skink and are not certain of its identification.
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