Copper Skink (Common Skink)

Oligosoma aeneum
Conservation Status: At risk

Although New Zealand has a diverse array of reptiles, very little about them is known. This goes for the skink, a reptile with sleek and shiny scales that shed one at a time. Habitat degradation and introduced predators have caused skink populations to decline. These skinks can often be seen in the Pūkaha forest, helping to pollinate our native plants and can also be seen in the free-flight aviary.


Moko Kākāriki / Barking Gecko (Wellington Green Gecko)

Naultinus elegans punctatus
Conservation Status: At risk, declining

Found only in the southern parts of the North Island, this beautiful green lizard is recognized by its barking distress call and yellow soled feet, the toes of which are lined by ‘setae’, tiny hairs that allow it to grip on a variety of surfaces including glass. They can live for around 45 years but habitat destruction has lead to the species’ decline. In Māori legend, geckos were part of Whiro’s army, the malevolent god who brought misfortune to earth.
Keen-eyed and patient visitors may spot this gecko at Pūkaha, where it has been sighted on several occasions running across the paths in summer.

Mokopirirakau / Ngāhere Gecko (Forest Gecko)

Mokopirirakau granulatus
Conservation Status: At risk, declining

Master of camouflage, the forest gecko is easily recognized once spotted thanks to their distinctive back markings. They also have yellow tongues and very short, broad toes. In Māori folklore, lizards and geckos are associated with the tale of Maui, the famous demi-god who is said to have become a lizard in order to hide from Hine-nui-te-pō, the goddess of death (it didn’t work – she crushed Maui, thereby bringing mortality to earth).
These geckos are nocturnal but their skins are often found in Pūkaha’s forest after being shed.


Sphenodon punctatus
Conservation Status: relict

Though tuatara look like lizards, they actually aren’t. Instead they belong to an ancient order of reptiles known as Sphenodontia that dates back 220 million years to the age of the dinosaurs. Although they used to live throughout New Zealand, today they are found on about 37 offshore islands. Rats have majorly impacted the tuatara, either eating their young or competing with them for food.

Pūkaha is home to five tuatara, with two tuatara on display in the Kiwi House and another three advocacy animals in private outdoor enclosures.

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