Reptilian residents living in shady circumstances

Publish Date : 17 May 2024
Ornate skink (Oligosoma ornatum)
Ornate skink (Oligosoma ornatum). Photo credit: Blair Balsom

How well do you know your neighbours?

Long-term residents near the south Puketāpapa coastline, who love the outdoors but are rarely seen or heard in the community have recently made the occasional appearance – revealing themselves to be ornate and copper skinks.

Like Puketāpapa’s melting pot of cultures, skinks belong to one of the most diverse lizard families – some of which can be found in Auckland’s urban environments. However, their survival is dependent on the help of their human neighbours and community to protect and preserve the natural environment.

Reptiles are declining in New Zealand and apart from their intrinsic value, they play an important part in the natural ecosystem in terms of pollination, seed dispersal and to fulfil their roles as prey and predator in the food web.

Work to locate the local skinks and protect them is funded by Puketāpapa Local Board to value and care for its natural environment and chair Ella Kumar is delighted to learn about these aloof residents.

“The rare sightings of skinks in our part of the region has prompted council staff to investigate and survey the significant ecological areas on the Manukau foreshore to monitor skink activity and establish a plan to protect these areas,” says chair Kumar.

“We’ve been advised that additional pest control to reduce rats in this important biodiversity area, which are a predator to skinks, is required to replace controls and traps that were wiped out from adverse weather.

“It’s important that we look after this area given it is one of the largest pockets of bush remaining on the Auckland isthmus and its sizeable network connecting to the Waitākere Ranges is critical for biodiversity,” she says.

“And much of this open space needs to be protected more than ever to offset impacts of urban growth.

“Supporting projects such as lizard surveying and pest control is important to us, with the aim to increase the resilience of biodiversity and protect vulnerable ecosystems in our rare and treasured open spaces, streams and forest,” explains chair Kumar.

Thanks to Conservation Volunteers, devoted participants have put in significant effort and hours through ecological restoration work to give skinks a chance.

“We are so grateful for all the work that volunteers have done for Puketāpapa. Thanks to their dedication, we hope to see more skinks move into the area,” says Kumar.

Volunteers are often seen re-establishing rat station lines in local parks near the foreshore.

In the coming months, the local board will finalise its programme to potentially allocate funding to projects such as these environmental initiatives to maintain local conservation work.

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