Chesterfield skink showing its prehensile tail
Image: Lynn Adams | DOC

Introduction

This species of skink is confined to a narrow strip of coastal habitat. It used to be known as the Chesterfield skink.

Highlights

Population: In 2021 the population was estimated at only 200
National status: Endemic
Conservation status: Threatened–Nationally Critical
Threats: Predators, habitat loss, human impacts

Kapitia skink conservation

The kapitia 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

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

Threats

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.

In 2021 the population was estimated at only 200.

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

Predator proof fence research

DOC is building a predator-proof fence within the natural range of the kapitia skink. Once built, a cohort of skinks will be released into the safe and secure area and we will monitor the population response. We expect a quick population recovery with the eradication of predators within the fence.

We’re also investigating a new "leaky" predator fence. It will exclude all rodents and hedgehogs and larger predators most of the time. An intensive biosecurity network around and within the fences will protect skinks from the occasional predator incursion. Comparison of a full predator-proof fence with a leaky fence will allow us to assess a more cost-effective option for lizard recovery on mainland New Zealand.

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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