The Department of Conservation is moving five grand skinks from the high country near Wanaka to Peacock Springs Wildlife Park in Christchurch, in a bid to save the critically endangered species.
“This is a major step for this critically endangered species. Establishing captive populations of skinks from these areas is critical to their survival,” Department of Conservation Otago Skink Recovery Programme Manager, Andy Hutcheon, said.
“We are collecting skinks over several years to reduce the impact on the small and vulnerable Lindis wild population. Removing breeding adult skinks could have a devastating impact on the wild population, so we collect young animals that are about a year old and raise them to breeding age in captivity.”
The skinks have been collected from small and isolated populations in the wild. This follows on from the successful transfers of another five grand skinks and eight Otago skinks to Peacock Springs over the last two summers.
They will be housed in a $100,000 purpose-built predator-proof enclosure at Peacock Springs.
- Grand and Otago skinks are two of our largest lizard species, growing to 30cm long and living for around 20 years
- Once found right across Otago, only a couple of thousand of each species now remain
- This is the third transfer of skinks from the Lindis area into captivity
- The skinks come from a small and vulnerable population, so to protect the wild population, they must be collected slowly and as juveniles
- Once the skinks reach breeding age at around 4-years-old, the breeding programme will produce young for release back into protected areas in the wild
- The main threat to grand and Otago skinks is predation by mammals such as cats, stoats and ferrets
- While the vulnerable Lindis populations are protected through captive breeding, larger wild populations of both species are protected by predator trapping at Macraes Flat in eastern Otago
- The Grand and Otago Skink Recovery Programme was established in 2002 after evidence suggested both species could be extinct within 15 years