First reports reveal reptile and amphibian predicament

Camouflage champions at risk

Last Updated : 11 Mar 2022
Frog & reptile report 2
Photo credit: Dylan van Winkel

Small in numbers and small in size; enigmatic and increasingly rare, we’re talking reptiles and frogs here.

Evolutionarily distinct and secretive by nature; these amphibious creatures are camouflage champions.

Auckland Council has just released its Regional Threat Assessment for reptiles and amphibians, the first two in a series of threat assessments for indigenous species in the Auckland region.

The report aligns with Auckland Council’s Indigenous Biodiversity Strategy to conserve the greatest number and most diverse range of indigenous ecosystems and achieve long term recovery of the greatest number of threatened species.

“In order to protect our threatened species, we need to understand which species are living within our region,” says Rachel Kelleher, General Manager Environmental Services.

“Knowing who is in 'residence' helps us keep track of the status of our reptile and amphibian populations. This allows us to work to manage threats and restore environments so our threatened species can flourish.”

New Zealand is home to over 123 reptile and amphibian species making it a global hotspot. The number keeps growing as more species are still being described.

Twenty-eight reptile species reside in the Auckland Region, (9 marine, 11 skinks, 7 geckos and tuatara); all are endemic, meaning they’re found nowhere else in the world.

In contrast, there are only four amphibian species in the region; the native Hochstetter’s frog, two bell frogs, introduced from Australia, the northern Great Barrier Island swimming frog. The latter has only been sighted twice and remains unclear if it’s an endemic New Zealand species or an introduced one. Hochstetter's frogs are 'regionally declining' and found in the Hunua and Waitakere Ranges, northern Rodney and on Great Barrier Island /Aotea.

“We’re so fortunate to have such a selection of reptiles and amphibians on our doorstep. This review we’ve undertaken with several leading herpetologists will give us a baseline as to the presence of reptiles in the region and allow us to monitor this over the coming years,” says Sabine Melzer, Senior Bio Information Analyst.

“When you think frogs,” says Sabine Melzer, Senior Bio Information Analyst, “New Zealand’s natives, which have changed little in millions of years, do things differently.”

“Frogs croak, right?  Not ours, they don’t even have external eardrums. We actually know very little about how our native frogs communicate with each other.”

“We’re so fortunate to have such a selection of reptiles and amphibians on our doorstep. This review we’ve undertaken with several leading herpetologists will give us a baseline as to the status of reptiles and frogs in the region and allow us to monitor in coming years if their numbers are stable, increasing or in decline,” says Sabine.

“Reptiles and frogs play an essential role in our ecosystems and are part of the wider food chain. They eat insects but reptiles also love fruit and can act as pollinators for our native plants. They are also a food source for native bird species.”

“Frogs can act as bio-indicators for pollution and have played a crucial role in advances in human medicine.  Historically, frogs were used in the development of pregnancy tests and more recently, chemicals in frog skin are used in research for new antibiotics against resistant bacteria,” Sabine adds.

The biggest threats to our unique reptiles and frogs are introduced mammals like rodents, mustelids, hedgehogs, cats and habitat loss brought about by urbanisation.

The region is a stronghold containing more than 20% of the national population of nine species of reptiles. The Muriwai gecko and Mokohīnau gecko are only found here.

The regional status of all native reptiles and frogs in Tāmaki Makaurau / Auckland is “Threatened” or “At Risk”. In fact, several species are more threatened here than nationally. The tuatara is “Regionally Critical” but nationally “At Risk” as is the Robust skink which is only found on one small island in the Mokohīnau island group. Pacific and Raukawa gecko are “At Risk” in the region but nationally “Not Threatened”.

The status of all known reptile and amphibian taxa in Tāmaki Makaurau / Auckland were assessed using the New Zealand Threat Classification System.

Read the reports online on the Knowledge Auckland website:

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