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Under the Radar:


Under the Radar: Lizards

Lizards belong to the group of animals known as reptiles. This group includes crocodiles, turtles, snakes, tuatara and lizards. There are lots of different types of lizards in the world. In New Zealand there are many species of geckos and skinks.

Auckland Green Gecko - Naultinus elegans -Photo Steve Reekie

Lizard facts

• There are over 80 different species of lizard in New Zealand. They are protected under law.
• There were 18 in pre-human Auckland; now there are 6 in urban Auckland.
• They are found from sea level to over 2000 m.
• The Maori name for lizard is ngarara (or karara in the southern dialect).
• Some lizards are active at night (nocturnal) while others only come out at day (diurnal). Some prefer the twilight (crepuscular).
• The oldest known gecko living in the wild is at least 42 years old. It lives on an island off the North Canterbury coastline.
• One New Zealand skink lays eggs, but all others give birth to fully-formed young.
• The major threats to lizards are introduced predators and habitat loss. Lizards are eaten by cats, ferrets, stoats, weasels, hedgehogs, rats, mice, and even some birds like magpies, kingfishers and blackbirds.
• Because lizards are cold-blooded they need heat to become active. The sun warms rocks, concrete and even tin, which lizards use to heat themselves up and become active.
• Although the tuatara looks like a lizard, it is actually the last remaining member of an ancient group of reptiles - Sphenodontia - that was around during the time of the dinosaur (over 200 million years ago).


Geckos have baggy, velvety skin and broad heads. They eat insects, fruit and nectar.
They usually give birth to two young in late summer / early autumn. Geckos live in tree crevices and branches in trees. They are very cryptic (hard to find, blending in with their environment) and live a long time - up to 36 years.

Geckos (and lizards in general) love ecotones (edge environments) and vegetation zones such as scrubland, native bush remnants and grasslands where they can find coprosma, meuhlenbeckia and pohutukawa.

The green gecko is the most ‘famous’ and recognisable gecko. But it is currently very rarely seen in Auckland.

green gecko forest gecko


Skinks have shiny, tight-fitting skins and look like snakes with legs. They eat insects and fruit and are ground dwellers. Skinks usually have three to six babies each year, but sometimes more than ten. Skinks like moist environments with cover to hide from predators. Their vegetation preferences include flax ,sedges, ground covers, leaf litter, and mulch. The most common skink in Auckland is the brown or copper skink.

copper skink moko skink


The New Zealand Herpetological Society

Department Of Conservation