While not widely known or celebrated, “New Zealand is very much a land of lizards, with more lizard species than terrestrial birds – 130 or so at last count, and likely to keep rising” says Richard.
“Aotearoa’s skinks and geckos are mostly small, secretive, and often restricted to remote locations, making them difficult to study and difficult to protect, which is why it’s so important we support every effort to study and preserve these globally significant reptilian treasures.”
One of the lizard projects will be undertaken by ‘Fauna Finders,’ who in early 2021 discovered a novel gecko species, Woodworthia “Sabine” in scree habitat in Nelson Lakes National Park. A second individual was discovered in the same area a year later. Yet to be formally described, local iwi Ngāti Apa ki te Rā Tō have named it Tikumu - after the large-leafed daisy that shares the gecko’s mountainous home.
“Our Zoo grant will help support further vital surveying work using a certified detector dog specifically trained to find geckos, so that more can be learnt about this newly discovered taonga’s distribution, habitat use, threats and conservation status to help inform future actions.”