Rare Native Skink Found at Poronui, Feb 2010
The small-scaled skink (Oligosoma microlepis) is an endemic reptile found only in the central North Island of New Zealand. It is listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (ICUN) as threatened and by the New Zealand Department of Conservation as in serious decline. This status is largely due to a lack of information regarding the skink’s distribution and habitat use. The small-scaled skink is unique in that every known population of this species is on private land. The fate of this skink relies on the development of strong relationships between land owners and conservation organisations.
Poronui has one of only three known populations of small-scaled skink in the Tongariro-Taupo region. There is potential for more than one population group to exist within the Poronui boundaries, which means Poronui may represent a stronghold for this species and therefore one of its greatest chances of survival. Poronui is well suited for the skink as it contains many pumice cliffs with loose boulders. These skinks prefer areas with little vegetation as they like to bask in the sun and are capable of scaling steep cliffs with ease. Poronui also has a plentiful supply of manuka beetles, which are a major food source for small-scaled skinks and other reptiles.
The primary objective of the small-scaled skink project being conducted at Poronui this NZ summer is to determine if the skinks still inhabit the areas of New Zealand they were once recorded on, which includes Poronui. We are excited to report that several small-scaled skinks have been found on Poronui since the project began in November 2009, including one that was spotted outside of the known range. The secondary objective is to find new populations within the Tongariro-Taupo region, whilst trialling different techniques for detecting the skinks, which is currently still in progress.
We are thrilled that Poronui will be able to play some small part in the conservation of a native species and we will keep you posted on the progress of the study over time.