Zoo vets give skinks a check-up

SAM BOYER
Last updated 15:46 01/12/2012
Otago skink
KEVIN STENT/Fairfax NZ
Four rare Otago skinks passed their medicals with flying colours at Wellington Zoo today.

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Finding a vein on a thick-skinned skink to give it a blood test was one of the problems encountered by staff at Wellington Zoo, as they health checked some of the country's rarest reptiles.

Zoo vets today checked the wellbeing of four Otago skinks, which will soon be joined by another four at the zoo before being transported to Alexandra Museum in Central Otago.

Vet Lisa Argilla said that while the blood tests had been tricky, the skinks mostly appeared in good health.

''You use a very small needle, and you can't see their veins, so there's a bit of a trick to that. [But] so far, they're looking good.

''They're just having a health check, checking for parasites, and we check their poos for worms.''

There was suspected parasites in the tails of one of them, which was being monitored.

There are thought to be between 2000 and 5000 Otago skinks living in the wild. The skinks currently being checked at the zoo are part of a endangered species breeding programme.

The skinks in Wellington, once health checked, will be sent to Otago, while skinks from the South Island will make the reverse journey.

Dr Argilla said this was to stop breeding pairs having incestuous relations.

''They're moving some skinks around - and there's some match-making going on. Obviously you don't want to start letting relatives breed.''

The skinks, native to Otago, are primarily threatened by house cats, as well as having their habitat ruined by development.

Contact Sam Boyer
Consumer Affairs reporter
Email: sam.boyer@dompost.co.nz
Twitter: @SamJBoyer

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- The Dominion Post

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