Archived content: This media release was accurate on the date of publication. 


DOC is keen to ensure people can enjoy our lizard species, without disturbing them.

Date:  19 December 2017

DOC is reminding people to leave native lizards in peace after receiving reports of people taking them home as pets and disturbing their habitats.

DOC Central Otago Senior Ranger Trudy Anderson says the region's lizards are a drawcard for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts who encounter them on their journeys. However, some people are becoming a little overzealous in their affections for these reptilian residents.

Grand skink.
The grand skink is a threatened lizard found in Otago
Image: DOC

"We're really lucky in Central Otago to live in a hotspot of lizard diversity. For the most part, adults and children alike are respectful and gentle when encountering lizards while exploring our natural places. However, we have recently received reports of people disturbing habitats and keeping native lizards as pets, which is not acceptable.

"We understand this can be well-meaning – people worry lizards do not like the extremes in the Central Otago climate and think they need rescuing. We are confident that all our lizards have lived here a long time and are well adapted to our hot and cold temperatures. They are very adept at finding shelter all on their own."

In Central Otago, there are at least nine species of lizard, of which six are threatened. They are under pressure from predation and habitat loss.

Trudy Anderson says DOC is keen to ensure people can enjoy the area's lizard species, without disturbing them.

"It's fantastic we have people who are interested and excited about our lizard wildlife, and we want to encourage that as much as possible. We just want to make sure people are doing it in a way that's not putting pressure on these special species."

The DOC Central Otago team have put together a list of ways to interact with local lizards, without harming them and their habitats.

Interacting with local lizards

It can be great fun looking for skinks on rocks and berry-covered bushes with a pair of binoculars. Sit quietly a few metres away and see if you can spot them basking and eating. During summer, the best time to do this can be early or later in the day when it is not too hot or too cold.

Most of our local geckos are nocturnal and it is possible to see them by going spotlighting with a torch at night. 

Rocks are homes. Lifting rocks disturbs lizard and invertebrate habitat and can destroy important refuge spots for lizards. Lizards can die if squashed by a rock being placed down on top of them.

Holding lizards is very stressful to them and can cause them to lose their tail. Losing a tail has major physiological implications for an individual and is to be avoided. Their tail is important for fat storage and the bone in the tail is unable to grow back. Our lizards can also carry diseases such as salmonella which makes holding them risky for humans. It is against the law to handle lizards without a permit.

You can help make awesome lizard habitats in your garden by providing heaps of rocks and areas of dense native shrubs. These will not only provide safe cover, but will also provide fruit and attract insects to feed on. You could also take part in predator control and ensure local pet cats wear a bell.

You can help protect our lizards, and any other native flora and fauna, by reporting suspicious activity and vehicle licence numbers to the 24 hour hotline, 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468). Photos are helpful if it is possible to take these.

Report to DOC any gecko sightings in the alpine area above about 900 m, or any threatened lizard sighting in Central Otago such as jewelled gecko, Otago skink and grand skink.

Find out more about our lizards.


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