Lizard Conservation in Mainland Sanctuaries



Mainland sanctuaries, where introduced mammalian predators are controlled or excluded, have the potential to improve the conservation status of New Zealand lizards. This is due to the reliance of a large number of species on habitats unavailable on offshore islands. However, despite considerable predator control efforts, lizard populations are still in decline, even in some mainland sanctuaries. The main cause of this failure appears to be that predator control is hard to sustain and largely targeted at protecting bird populations, which require lower levels of predator suppression than lizard populations. Even fenced, mainland, predator-exclusion sites are prone to reinvasions, particularly of mice, which are difficult to exclude at the outset. Episodic irruptions of mice within fenced sanctuaries, and other mammalian predator species in unfenced sanctuaries, can quickly decrease lizard numbers. Small lizard populations are particularly vulnerable. We discuss two case studies to illustrate population dynamics and limitations to understanding mechanisms underlying patterns of population declines in New Zealand skinks: ornate skinks (Oligosoma ornatum) in a fenced mainland site and speckled skinks (O. infrapunctatum) in an unfenced mainland site. We also speculate about the effects on lizards of native and non-native birds and introduced social insects, including wasps and ants. Understanding biological interactions and obtaining more species- and situation-specific data for lizards will provide information on limits to recovery, detection time frames after management actions, risks and benefits of habitat enhancements and density targets for introduced species where total eradication is impractical.


Conservation Gecko Invasive species Mainland sanctuary Ornate skink Predation Speckled skink 



Thanks to the friends of Rotoiti volunteers, Diana McMahon, Eric Dumont, Sirin Gnadeberg and Richard Meutstege; Ingrid McConchie for site access and Genevieve Taylor, Kimberly Parlane, Tamsin Bruce, Sally Leggett, Petrina Carter, Grant Harper, Elena Moltchanova, Laura Azzani, Matt Hanson, the Department of Conservation and friends of Rotoiti for project support. Our work was conducted under the following permits: Department of Conservation (NM–29621–FAU, WE/31544-FAU, WE112/RES, WE/297/RES, WE/340/RES, WE/33952/CAP), University of Canterbury Animal Ethics (2010/28R) and Victoria University of Wellington (2003R16-06, 2005R11-08, 2008R14, 2012R11). The Todd Foundation Award for Excellence, Federation of Graduate Women Trust Award, University of Canterbury Alumni Association Scholarship, the BAYER Boost Scholarship and the University of Canterbury part funded this research. We thank David Towns for reviewing an earlier version of this chapter.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Victoria University of WellingtonWellingtonNew Zealand
  2. 2.Department of Conservation—Te Papa AtawhaiAlexandraNew Zealand
  3. 3.Department of Conservation—Te Papa AtawhaiTe AnauNew Zealand
  4. 4.Department of ConservationDunedinNew Zealand
  5. 5.Department of Conservation—Te Papa AtawhaiWellingtonNew Zealand
  6. 6.ZEALANDIAWellingtonNew Zealand
  7. 7.School of Biological Sciences, University of CanterburyChristchurchNew Zealand

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