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 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
New Zealand Skinks - Scincidae
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
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 other skinks.
Currently there is a recovery programme in place
to try to stem the alarming reduction in numbers of this beautiful
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 Maitai Valley.
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.