Rocky sanctuary now a local lizard haven

MATTHEW LITTLEWOOD
Last updated 10:00 29/01/2014
lizard sanctuary

TO THE RESCUE: Over the past year, 100 skinks were rescued through trapping and shifting of stone piles.

lizard sanctuary
PROTECTION MODE: Lizards have become the centre of attention near Geraldine, thanks to a team of workers who are doing their bit to protect the community's lizards.
lizard sanctuary
WORK IN PROGRESS: A team of workers are doing their bit for South Canterbury's lizard population.

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Hermann Frank is pleased lizards have a place they can call home in South Canterbury - but he has bigger plans in store.

Pit Road Reserve, a 23-hectare old gravel pit near Geraldine, is being managed by Timaru District Council as the largest lizard sanctuary in South Canterbury.

It was the brainchild of local lizard expert Hermann Frank and Timaru District Council staff member Gary Foster.

The sanctuary was established about two years ago, while Environment Canterbury (ECan) has provided more than $40,000 towards the site's establishment.

Mr Frank said the South Island's skinks were placed on the Department of Conservation's schedule as a "threatened species" last year.

"It means we have to do even more to protect them ... last year was a big year for us, but this year, our job is to keep track of the lizards that live at the sanctuary," he said.

Over the last year, 100 skinks were rescued through trapping and shifting of stone piles.

Mr Frank said more than "40 truckloads" of rocks were shifted on to the site in November.

"These were placed around the edges of the pit, where extensive disturbance has been undertaken in the past as part of the gravel extraction operations formerly undertaken at the site," he said.

"I'm happy with the lizard habitat ... they were becoming increasingly isolated in recent years, as they lost so much of their land due to changes in agricultural practices."

Timaru District Council's parks and recreation manager Bill Steans had commissioned entomologist Brian Patrick to produce a report and management plan on the reserve's insect life.

"We will also look to develop wetlands which are located within areas of the pit floor and investigate fire control options. It's been a learning experience for me, too," Mr Steans said.

"I didn't know much about lizards when we started this, but Hermann has been a great guide. There's clearly a strong community spirit behind this."

Mr Steans said the Pitt Rd reserve had become an increasingly important ecological site for South Canterbury.

"We will plant more native species, monitor and enhance lizards and their habitat, and monitor plant communities and insect communities," Mr Steans said.

"The more we learn about the place, the more interesting it becomes."

Mr Frank wanted to further develop another site at Fitzgerald Rd, which was established with the help of a farmer about a year ago.

"There's so much more we can do," he said.

SOUTH CANTERBURY HERALD

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