How to grow lizards

Photo: Paul Callister

I have lived in Paekākāriki for over 35 years. Most of that time I have not known much about lizards. Sure, there have always been a few skinks running around my garden. But that was about all I knew. All that began to change when Ngā Uruora hired Ecogecko to do a series of local lizard surveys. Now, with a bit of research, plenty of searching under rocks, and lots of chatting to experts, I know a lot more. For example, New Zealand has more than 100 species of lizards. We have geckos and skinks and none of them are found anywhere else in the world. Seventeen lizard species have been recorded in the Wellington region.

So where are they all? Well, lizards are described as cryptic. That is, even when common, they are hard to find. But the main reason why they are uncommon locally is that we have done our best to destroy their natural habitat. And lots of creatures, including cats, eat them. Many New Zealand lizards are threatened with extinction.

Despite this, a number of lizard species have been found in and around Paekākāriki. On the escarpment we have common grass skinks, copper skinks, raukawa gecko and the regionally rare brown skink. Raukawa gecko have also been found occasionally in the village. On Whareroa Farm a couple of Wellington green gecko have been found. And up nearby Waterfall Road some forest gecko have been uncovered.

What other lizard types should we have in our neighbourhood? It is likely that the whitaker skink was once common along the base of the escarpment from its last known home in Pukerua Bay through to the area above Paekākāriki station. While the more optimistic amongst us still hope to find a remnant population, the known vestiges of this population now live at Ngā Manu Reserve in Waikanae. Ecogecko suggests that we might still find remnant populations of spotted skinks as well as ornate skinks.

So what can we do to protect and grow local lizard populations? Pest control is crucial. But so too is habitat. Ngā Uruora is undertaking pest control as well as improving habitat. In particular, we are creating a lizard garden at the former quarry site opposite Fisherman’s Table. Featured in this site are attractive cut out lizards. These were made by the MenzShed Kapiti and painted by children from Paekākāriki School. This lizard garden is an easy hour long round walk at the Paekākāriki end of the escarpment track.

Paekākāriki School has also recently created its own lizard garden. We know that at least three common skinks has already taken up residence. There is also a small lizard garden next to the new visitor centre at Queen Elizabeth Park. The Guardians of Whareroa Farm is hatching their own plan for a lizard garden.

Paekākāriki residents can also create their own lizard friendly spaces. Amelia Geary has created a list of lizard friendly plants. The school is already growing many of these which are available for sale at the upcoming Labour Weekend Plant Sale, 10am – 2pm on October 20th.

For those wanting additional information the Department of Conservation has a brochure about local lizards.