The vulnerable Te Kakahu skink is a nationally critically endangered skink, which exists in a small area on Te Kakahu O Tamatea/Chalky Island in southwest Fiordland and is part of Fiordland National Park.
Liz Collins, Owner, and Teresa Scott, General Manager, of the sustainable creative kiwi clothing company Chalky Digits, recently accompanied DOC rangers on their three yearly monitoring programme of these skinks on Chalky Island. For funder Chalky Digits and the Fiordland Conservation Trust, this is their first herpetofauna project and it was a great success.
Te Kakahu skink
Image: Erina Loe | DOC
Te Kakahu skink
Image: Hannah Edmonds |DOC
Creating a significant conservation milestone, Chalky and the two Passage Islands were the first islands in history where an attempt was made to eradicate stoats from an island, which was successful in 1999 and all three islands have been predator free ever since.
Predator free islands like Chalky Island are important for lizards, as they’re highly vulnerable to predators, including mice. The Te Kakahu skink was only discovered in 2002, and confirmed as a distinct species in 2011. A population estimate undertaken by DOC in 2013 indicated the skinks were relatively abundant. This follow up monitoring confirmed those results.
Teresa Scott says, “It is an immense privilege to help protect one of New Zealand’s rare and very unique species. It’s very important to keep tabs on how these lizards are getting on, so we can ensure they stick around for the future. With part of our sponsorship funds coming from sales of our clothing range and accessories, it’s fantastic that our loyal Chalky friends are also helping to protect this very special lizard.”
Liz Collins echoes Scott’s sentiments: “Chalky Island is such a special place to us, and as one of our country’s pest-free sanctuaries it’s also hugely important to the successful conservation of our native species. We were also ecstatic with the abundance of South Island robins/kakaruai we helped translocate to this safe haven in 2010 with DOC and the Trust. They are so plentiful now, they’re being considered as a seed source for establishing populations on other bird sanctuaries which is simply the best news!”
Trust Chair Kim Hollows acknowledges the commitment of Chalky Digits to conservation and particularly to Chalky Island, the site of their very first conservation project with the Trust. “This is an incredibly busy time for Chalky Digits in the run up to getting their winter 2016 range completed and in store, so they could get to Chalky Island and participate in the monitoring the skinks.
"We’re extremely grateful for their ongoing support of conservation projects and thrilled that Chalky Digits also finds inspiration for their graphics from their conservation projects.“
For photos and more information: Chalky Digits Conservation Blog
Chalky Digits is a New Zealand owned and based creative lifestyle and fashion clothing company, made from natural and sustainable fabrics; merino and organic cotton. Chalky Digits Ltd aims to raise awareness of New Zealand’s endangered native species. The company raises funds for special conservation projects including the South Island robin/kakaruai transfer to Chalky Island with DOC and the Fiordland Conservation Trust in 2010. See Chalky Digits.
Fiordland Conservation Trust
Established in 2007, Fiordland Conservation Trust has worked with many different individuals and businesses to bring about outstanding conservation projects in Southland. Several businesses have on-going relationships with Fiordland Conservation Trust; the encounters with some of New Zealand’s threatened species and amazing wilderness environments experienced by these people is having a positive impact on their willingness to support future projects. The Trust was awarded the Achiever Award in the 2015 Environment Southland Awards. See Fiordland Conservation Trust.
Chalky Island/Te Kakahu-o-Tamatea
Chalky Island, 514 ha in size is located at the entrance to Chalky Inlet in southern Fiordland. It is a predator free island and home to a suite of threatened species. DOC has established a trapping network to eradicate stoats, which is checked and rebaited six monthly to prevent stoats from reestablishing on the islands.
Te Kakahu Skink
The Te Kakahu skink was first discovered in 2002 by members of the DOC Kakapo Recovery Team and was formally described in 2011. It is one of six distinct species in the Oligosoma inconspicuum or cryptic skink species complex. DOC undertook a baseline population estimate in March 2013, the result of which indicated a relatively abundant population. Each skink was aged, sexed, measured and given an individual number.