Lizards alert for wildlife census

ELLE HUNT
Last updated 05:00 25/02/2013
Lizard

KEEP YOUR EYES OPEN: Wellington is home to eight species of gecko and skink but their numbers are thought to be in decline because of predators and a loss of habitat.

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Wellington City Council has made a cold-blooded appeal to the public to contribute sightings of lizards for its census.

The city is home to at least eight species of gecko and skink, although overall numbers are thought to have declined because of a loss of habitat and increased numbers of predators.

The council's reserves manager, Myfanwy Emeny, says the completed survey will give it a better understanding of numbers in the area.

"We've been regularly doing bird monitoring for over 10 years, and we realised there were quite a few gaps.

"It's part of an ongoing initiative to know more about what's out there."

Funding permitted, bats will be next to come under scrutiny.

The survey began last Thursday, and will finish in April next year.

Until then, councillor Helene Ritchie is encouraging people to report any sightings of lizards to EcoGecko Consultants, a New Plymouth-based company that specialises in monitoring and protecting New Zealand's lizard populations.

"Geckos and skinks are an important part of Wellington's biodiversity," she said.

"It would be wonderful if people could help make this extremely worthy project a success by providing us with information about these fascinating creatures."

Useful details include information about the location, a photo or description of the lizard (such as its colour, size and species), and the date and time when it was sighted.

If you haven't seen any lizards, but would like to, experts suggest encouraging them by planting dense, prickly shrubs and native grasses, minimising use of insecticide and herbicide sprays, and planting berry and nectar-producing plants.

Lizard sightings can be reported by emailing sabine@ecogecko.co.nz, calling 027 341 7373, or via Landcare Research's NatureWatch website or smartphone app.

GECKO OR LIZARD?

-  Geckos have broad heads with large bulging eyes, clearly defined necks, and soft, velvety-looking skin that is covered in very small, granular scales.

- Skinks are more slender, with narrow heads and small eyes. They have smooth, shiny, fish-like scales on the surface of their skin.

- Both can lose their tails if they feel threatened. 

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