Mayor Celia Wade-Brown says that although we might not see the secretive reptiles very often, Wellington is actually home to at least eight distinct species of lizards – including the striking Wellington green gecko.
"Overall numbers have declined due to loss of habitat and predation by cats and other introduced mammals. This survey should help us get a better idea of the distribution of species. We can then work with local communities to look after them."
According to Mayor Wade-Brown, the survey, which begins today, will be similar to one recently carried out by Massey University student Kerry Charles to monitor the city’s kākā population.
"These are part of Our Living City, a broad-based initiative, which aims to make Wellington an even healthier place to live for all our inhabitants – whether they are plants, animals or humans. Our biodiversity is one of the things that make Wellington such an interesting place to live."
EcoGecko Consultants – a team that specialises in monitoring and protecting New Zealand’s lizard populations – will help the Council with the survey. However the Council’s Environment Portfolio Leader, Councillor Helene Ritchie says the survey will also need support from the public.
"Geckos and skinks are an important part of Wellington’s biodiversity. It would be wonderful if people could help make this extremely worthy project a success by reporting any lizard sightings and providing us with information about these fascinating creatures."
Helpful observations would include details about the location, a photo or description of the lizard – such as its colour, size and species – and the date and time it was seen. Lizard sightings can be reported by emailing email@example.com or calling 027 341 7373.
Native lizard facts:
- New Zealand has only two kinds of lizards – geckos and skinks. However we have an exceptional amount of diversity, with at least 80 species identified – most of them are found nowhere else in the world. This is unique for an island group of our size and latitude.
- Our geckos are some of the world’s most primordial. It’s likely they are descended from an ancient family that lived in the New Zealand region before its separation from Gondwanaland 80 million years ago.
- They are long-lived animals, with some of our species living up to 40 years.
- Geckos have broad heads with large bulging eyes, clearly defined necks, and soft, velvety-looking skin that is covered in very small, granular scales.
- Skinks are more slender with narrow heads and small eyes. They have smooth, shiny, fish-like scales on the surface of their skin.
- Skinks and geckos both feed on insects and fruit and possess excellent senses of sight, smell and hearing.
- Both groups can lose their tails – which can distract predators while the animal escapes.
- Almost all of our lizards give birth to live young, which makes them unique (most lizards lay eggs).
- Being cold blooded creatures, in order to survive skinks and geckos have to raise their body temperature by extracting heat from the sun’s rays and from rock surfaces.
- You can make your garden a more lizard-friendly habitat by:
- providing crevices where lizards can hide
- planting dense, prickly shrubs and native grasses where lizards can escape predators
- minimising use of insecticide and herbicide sprays
- planting berry and nectar-producing plants to give lizards year-round food
- and making ‘lizard hotels’ with corrugated iron.