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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 is investigating where and how native lizards are surviving in New Zealand's urban environments and how these populations can be effectively managed. This project involves 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 will be used to survey urban lizard populations in different New Zealand towns and cities. Predatory mammal populations and habitat variables will also be recorded to understand potential pressures on lizard populations.

Habitat Enhancement
Methods for lizard habitat enhancement that are advocated for in urban restoration projects will be tested for efficacy. The two methods that will be tested are 1) complex vegetation planting and 2) planting along with constructed rock piles.

Spatial Modelling
A GIS model will be built to allow evaluation of a city's potential lizard populations and help with comparisons between different cities. The model will assess the importance of factors that influence the presence of lizards in urban areas including habitat availability, mammal populations and climatic factors.

Citizen Science
The lizard research team will engage communities to help identify urban sites where lizards are present and then carry out monitoring of both lizard and predatory mammal populations. The team will not only analyse this valuable biodiversity data but also examine the potential of citizen lizard monitoring as a tool for public engagement in conservation.

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

  • Hamilton
  • Wellington
  • Nelson
  • Dunedin

Get involved!
Report urban lizard sightings here.

Read more about NZ Lizards on Chris Woolley's Blog

Research Team