Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Rare reptile rears its head in Waipawa

A population of an endangered lizard – thought to be the Hawke’s Bay skink – has been found making its home within a blackberry bush in Waipawa, Central Hawke’s Bay.  

It is the first time the skink has been found in Central Hawke’s Bay, with other known populations in Hawke’s Bay being only within the predator-proof fence at Cape Sanctuary (Cape Kidnappers) in the Hastings district.

Donna Hossack, who originally discovered the group on her property, says, “we are all excited and trying to work out how to best protect them and provide a better habitat than the overgrown blackberry bush”.

“We’re providing extra protection in the short-term while we brainstorm long-term solutions. We would love to help them thrive rather than just survive.

“Since discovering where they are, we’ve been surprised at how many we’ve seen once we stop and look. On a sunny day, my daughter can often be found sitting in a chair reading her book in front of their habitat, and her patience usually pays off as they come out into the sun to warm up.”

Hawke’s Bay Regional Council Biodiversity Advisor, Natalie de Burgh says it was a heartening discovery, considering the species’ dramatically reduced population and distribution.

“The Hawke’s Bay skink was once widespread throughout the district but introduced predators and habitat change have severely affected this special species. Currently, 94 percent of all reptiles in New Zealand are either threatened or at risk of extinction, so this is an incredibly exciting discovery,” she said.

“Now that we know of this population in Central Hawke’s Bay, we’re hoping to find other skinks across the region.”

Department of Conservation (DOC) Hawke’s Bay Ranger Biodiversity, Thalia Sachtleben says it’s always exciting to find more places where these skinks flourish.

“These skinks are a nationally endangered species, and their ongoing survival is uncertain without help from people. It’s great to see locals so enthusiastic about caring for our unique local fauna.”

Although genetic testing is yet to take place to verify the species, based on their appearance and where they were found, experts believe the population is of Hawke’s Bay skinks.

There are many ways people can help protect New Zealand’s unique reptilian species – creating lizard-friendly gardens, controlling rodents, and reporting any sightings to DOC at https://www.doc.govt.nz/our-work/reptiles-and-frogs-distribution/atlas/species-sightings-and-data-management/report-a-sighting/.

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