Chesterfield skink showing its prehensile tail


This species of skink is confined to a narrow strip of coastal habitat.


Population: (2017) Estimated to be 150-200 individuals
National status: Endemic
Conservation status: Threatened–Nationally Critical
Threats: Predators, habitat loss, human impacts

Chesterfield skink conservation

The Chesterfield skink (Oligosoma salmo) was discovered in the 1990s and was already in a critical state. Management was delayed by uncertainty over the species’ taxonomic status but recent work has resolved that it is a separate, distinctive species.

Did you know

Chesterfield skinks have strong prehensile tails to grip objects and help them climb. It's possible they once lived in trees.


We expect mice to be a significant predator. Rats, mustelids, cats and the native weka will also be preying upon skinks. 

Habitat loss is a significant threat. Since the 1990s, their remaining rough, pasture habitat was lost to farm improvements. They are now restricted to a thin strip of coastal habitat between farms and sand dunes. Their habitat can be affected by storms, as well as vehicle damage, and fire.

Skinks are also at risk of being crushed by vehicles on the beach. 

Our work

Research to understand this species began in 2015. Prior to this, only 15 animals had ever been seen, with only a single confirmed in the last decade.

DOC is carrying out research to identify the causes of decline, understand the ecological needs of the species, and develop recovery methods.

We are also investigating a new "leaky" predator fence. It will allow skink access through the mesh, but excludes predators most of the time. An intensive trapping and bait network within the fence will protect skinks from the occasional predator incursion. We hope this fence will be a more cost-effective option for lizard recovery on mainland New Zealand, compared to the more expensive predator-proof design used elsewhere.

You can help

Beach ecosystems are fragile and often contain important and secretive species. Avoid driving on the beach, lighting fires, or removing driftwood to help protect these areas.

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