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New Zealand is home to over 100 species of lizards, all but one of which are native and found nowhere else in the world. Our lizard fauna comprises both geckos and skinks living in a wide range of habitats across the country. Introduced mammals such as rodents, mustelids (weasels, ferrets and stoats) and cats threaten these lizards through direct predation as well as competition for resources. To protect and enhance native lizard populations, it is therefore crucial for introduced mammals to be controlled.

Urban environments provide an opportunity for targeted lizard recovery because small areas of suitable habitat often exist in locations where people can undertake intensive control of predatory mammals and regular monitoring. These habitat pockets will provide security from extinction as well as ongoing development of lizard survey and predator management techniques that can be applied in larger landscapes.

Our Lizards research team have studied where and how native lizards are surviving in New Zealand's urban environments and how these populations can be effectively managed. This project has involved surveys of urban lizard populations and urban habitats, assessment of habitat enhancement techniques, modelling of factors that affect lizards, and engagement with community restoration groups, schools and residents through citizen science.

Pitfall trapping and systematic night searches have been used to survey urban lizard populations in different New Zealand towns and cities. Predatory mammal populations and habitat variables were also recorded to understand potential pressures on lizard populations.

Habitat Enhancement
We tested the efficacy of two common methods for enhancement of lizard habitat in urban restoration projects: 1) complex vegetation planting and 2) planting along with constructed rock piles.

Citizen Science
We have engaged communities to help identify urban sites where lizards are present and then carried out monitoring of both lizard and predatory mammal populations. We have not only analysed and modelled this valuable biodiversity data but have also examined the potential of citizen lizard monitoring as a tool for public engagement in conservation.

Mitigation translocations
Our team are developing best practice methodology for translocations of common lizard species that are affected by habitat disturbance or destruction. This will improve the biodiversity outcomes from development initiatives across the country.

Study sites
The study sites for the Lizards research project are in four cities:

  • Hamilton
  • Wellington
  • Nelson
  • Dunedin

Watch this space! Research findings available in early 2021.

Research Team