New Zealand Lizards
NEW ZEALAND LIZARDS.
Currently there is in excess of one hundred species of
lizards recognised in New Zealand, all belonging to one of two families
either geckos or skinks. Worldwide there are about twenty
six families such as monitors, dragons chameleons etc.
Some of the differences in the two families are as follows:
As their scales overlap skinks tend to have a smooth
glossy appearance while in geckos the scales do not, giving
them a more velvety
or matt finish.
Geckos have a broader almost
than skinks and tend to be stouter generally.
Skinks can close their eyes with a
moveable lower eyelid whereas New Zealand geckos eyes are covered
with a clear
disc and are in effect open all the time.
Geckos have adhesive
pads under their feet which aids them
in climbing, skinks do not have these.
All New Zealand lizards, also the tuatara, are protected by law. They
must not be kept or captured without a permit issued by the Department
With the exception of one species, the egglaying
skink, all New Zealand lizards are live bearers. The females still
produce eggs to nourish the developing babies, as opposed to mammals
where babies are directly connected to the mother for nourishment. By
retaining the eggs within the female lizard can control to some extent
the hatching temperature rather than relying on the conditions to remain
stable as needed for eggs deposited. New Zealand's temperate and changeable
climate makes the egg retention a better option. Geckos normally produce
two babies while skinks can have clutches of up to eight for some
of the larger species. There is no parental care and the young are self
reliant from the start.
Insects of a suitable size are the main part of the diet,
supplemented with berries and in some instances nectar from flowers.
New Zealand Skinks - Scincidae
or Three Kings Islands Skink Oligosoma fallai
Found only on the Three Kings Islands inhabiting areas with rocks
and low bushes. Diurnal, it is one of the larger New Zealand skinks
and feeds on insects, berries from low growing bushes and sometimes
fish regurgitated from seabirds. It is not usual for the ones at the
Reptile Park to spend some time
basking in the shrubs in their enclosure, especially
juveniles possibly seeking a safe haven away from the adults. There
does seem to recognition amongst the group as there is some tolerance
to young born within it but none to those introduced from outside.
The young are produced usually in January or February and there can
be as many as eight to a litter.
Northern Brown Skink Oligosoma moco
Becoming scarce on the Northeastern portion of the North Island where
it once was widespread and may soon be restricted to the offshore
islands of that area. Lives in open country near the coast, diurnal.
Shore Skink Oligosoma smithii
From the Northern half of the North Island where it lives very close
to the shoreline, diurnal.
Striped Skink Oligosoma striatum
Only from the North Island this skink is considered endangered.
It is found in epiphytes in standing trees as well as rotting ones on
the ground, diurnal.
Otago Skink Oligosoma otagense
Probably the largest to live on either of the two main islands this
skink was once widespread throughout the Otago region of the South Island
but is now restricted to two separate areas. Diurnal it inhabits
rocky outcrops in grassland areas where it enjoys sunbasking. Its food
consists of available insects, spiders etc plus fair proportion of berries
from low bushes. The young usually two or three are produced in Summer
[late January or February] and are relatively large in comparison to
Currently there is a recovery programme in place to try
to stem the alarming reduction in numbers of this beautiful skink.
Robust Skink Cyclodina alani Occurs only on a few offshore islands
North East of the North Island. Possibly the largest New Zealand skink
it is forest dwelling, nocturnal but will on occasions bask in the
sun, usually in the morning. It feeds on all manner of ground insects
as well as any flying ones that circumstances allow. At the Reptile Park
they are fed crickets, locusts, mealworms, moths [we have found
even large moths such as puriri moths can be consumed] and other insects
as available. They also fed comercial pet jellimeat and pureed pears,
the latter suggesting that they eat berries in the wild but as they are
poor climbers probably rely on fallen ones rather those still on the
bushes. A single litter, normally on alternate years, of up to eight young
is produced in March or April.
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New Zealand Geckos - geckonidae
Green Gecko Naultinus greyii
From Northland, diurnal, inhabits manuka or similar bushes where
it feeds on insects and berries. Some are plain green others are patterned
with grey or yellow blotches or stripes which are unique to each lizard,
a female can produce one patterned and one plain green youngster in the
same litter. They are unable to change their colour or even adjust
the tone of it. The inside of the mouth is blue and the tongue red. A
litter of twins are produced in March or April.
Auckland Green Gecko Naultinus elegans elegans
From upper half of the North Island excluding Northland, habits similar
to Northland Green. It is smaller in size than the Northland species
and the inside of its mouth and tongue a much deeper shade of mauve.
Occasionally the green is replaced by a sulphur-yellow colour but the
lizard may still be mottled with a lighter colour. This colour varient
does appear in some of the other species of green geckos. Normally the
young are produced in August but at the Reptile Park they sometimes appear
in the Autumn which is not unusual for others in captivity.
Forest Gecko Hoplodactylus granulatus
Occurs throughout New Zealand in bush and scrub, mainly nocturnal although
it will bask on sunny days. As with the green coloured tree geckos,
especially those with some patterning, that blend beautifully amongst
the leaves the forest gecko's pattern resembles tree bark so well
that the lizard can be almost invisible on the branches and trunk and bask
there in relative saftey during the day venturing out into the foliage
at night to forage. Although nocturnal the ones at the Reptile Park are
quite active during the day feed on flies moths etc plus fruit and honey
in place of the berries e.g. coprosma they eat naturally.
Nelson Green Gecko Heteropholis
known as the star gecko this gecko is restricted to the
Nelson province but can show different
patterning depending on the area they are from. The one on the left
is from the Nelson Lakes district and the one on the right from The
Goldstripe Gecko Hoplodactylus chrysosireticus
From coastal Taranaki living under rocks or logs or the base
of flax type bushes, seeming to prefer long leaved varieties
rather than those with conventional leaves. It is mainly nocturnal though
it will bask amongst the leaves of low bushes. Its food consists or insects
such as flies, moths, earwigs etc that it would encounter in its habitat.
It is unusual in that unlike most of our other natives will frequent
gardens and farms utilising old timber and other building materials
for shelter. The young are produced usually February or March.
Duvaucel's Gecko Hoplodactylus duvauceli
The largest New Zealand gecko, no longer occurs on
the mainland but found on offshore islands from Cook Strait northwards
where it lives in rocky or forested areas, active at night but will
bask in the sun. Feeds on all manner of nocturnal insects
that it would encounter naturally and at the Reptile Park any of the
insects that we breed for food are readily accepted as are offerings
of honey, pears or banana. In the wild they have recorded taking berries
and nectar from flax and other similar flowers even climbing to the top
of pohutukawa trees when in flower. Rather large babies normally twins
are produced in the Autumn.