This precious native skink has a new name – and a soon-to-be beachfront home! The Chesterfield skink, named for the West Coast region where it is found just north of Hokitika, has been gifted a fitting te reo name by local iwi, ’Kapitia skink‘, which references the local area and nearby stream.

We’ve been caring for 60 individuals, about a quarter of what is thought to be the entire species, of these ‘nationally critical’ skinks in a dedicated back of house facility at the zoo, serviced by our dedicated ectotherm keepers. This group were rescued by DOC in 2018 just before Cyclone Fehi destroyed a large area of their only known coastal home and transferred them to Auckland Zoo for ‘safe-keeping’ – an insurance policy against their extinction should the combined threats of coastal erosion, storms and predators further deplete their already tiny numbers in the wild.


​Our head of life sciences Richard Gibson recently visited Hokitika, and met with DOC colleagues to plan the next stage of the skinks recovery – a dedicated, predator-free skink reserve! A 1.3ha area at the southern end of the skinks known range will be encircled with a ~2m high predator-proof fence to keep out cats, stoats, rats and mice. Then the habitat will be enhanced with suitable native plants for food and cover before skinks will be moved in to a safe new home.

“It’s awesome to see such a concerted effort and major investment being made in what many people might consider ‘just a little brown lizard’ - but all our endemic wildlife is equally precious and with more than one hundred known species of lizard, most of which are increasingly threatened, we certainly have our work cut out and it’ll be a huge relief to see the Kapitia skink safe and sound” says Richard.

Every time you visit our zoo or make a donation to our Conservation Fund you’re helping to continue conservation work just like this, safeguarding the futures of incredible Aotearoa species.