There are two kinds of lizards in NZ - geckos and skinks. Geckos have broad heads with large bulging eyes; skinks are more slender with narrow heads and small eyes. Geckos have loose skin that they shed; skinks have tight shiny skin that stays put! Both can lose their tails - a good trick to help escape from predators.
Major threats to reptiles are introduced predators and habitat loss. Cats, ferrets, stoats, weasels, hedgehogs, rats and mice are all keen on eating lizards! The loss of indigenous forest and the conversion of tussock land to pasture have had a huge impact on habitat and the majority of geckos and skinks now live in small pockets of untouched environment.
Why we keep reptiles
Captive and breeding programmes help support wild populations. Captive populations are ambassadors for NZ fauna, telling their stories, why they are unique, diverse and worth preserving.
What can I see?
We have nine reptile species. The Weka Walk is home to geckos and skinks.
Who lives where?
We have different species living together - in some enclosures we have 5-6 lizards. We put those that are compatible together (i.e. they don’t eat other lizards) and they occupy different space within the same enclosure. Rocks and plants provide shelter, basking and climbing opportunities. Bugs are released in leaf litter to encourage them to forage as they would in the wild.
How to find me
Reptiles rely on camouflage and quick escape for survival so take your time when looking in to the enclosure and keep nice and quiet. Green geckos are diurnal tree-dwellers; mostly grey or brown geckos are nocturnal and live in trees or on the ground.
In your backyard
If your cat brings in a lizard and it’s not injured, find a dense clump of vegetation and release it - geckos high up in the branches, skinks near old logs. If it’s injured, pop it in a small container with holes in the lid and take it to the local DOC office.
Reptiles are cold-blooded and covered in scales. We have three times the number of reptile species as Australia.