Conservation of New Zealand Lizards: A Fauna Not Forgotten but Undervalued?



Conservation actions are heavily influenced by value judgements and cultural perceptions. The huge lizard fauna of New Zealand played a prominent role in the worldview of the first people (Māori), but appeared to be poorly appreciated by European settlers. Early legislation to protect native fauna explicitly excluded lizards, which remained unprotected until the 1980s. After legislated protection was extended to lizards, the distribution and status of the rarest species have become increasingly understood. About 83 % of the fauna is currently regarded as threatened or at risk. Of the five species included in early recovery plans, two have improved status, two have declined and then improved as management improved and one has declined in listed status, although at least one new population has been established. There is increasing evidence that immediate threats faced by many species can be resolved, particularly those that inhabit islands. Longer-term threats may include genetically compromised populations, extremely protracted monitoring issues and climate change. Threats to progress with lizard conservation also involve socioecological problems such as social attitudes to lizards versus birds and competition for financial resources. Solutions may involve alliances between agencies, academic institutions and Māori organisations, with the latter now including statutory co-management agreements.


Geckos Skinks Māori Legislation Threats Predators Islands Translocations Co-management 



We thank Pare Keiha and Hare Paniora for their advice with the sections of this account that relate to Māori, Nicky Nelson for her useful review of the text and the Ngatiwai Trust Board for the permission to incorporate their poster of niho taniwha. We acknowledge the late Matua John Marsh for his support and tuition of one of us (JP) in Ngati Whakaue-Te Arawatanga. E Matua, nau i whatu te kakahu, he taniko taku (yours is the useful work, mine ornamental).


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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ConservationAucklandNew Zealand
  2. 2.Institute for Applied Ecology New ZealandAuckland University of TechnologyAucklandNew Zealand
  3. 3.Department of ConservationWellingtonNew Zealand

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