What makes New Zealand's herpetofauna so special?
New Zealand hosts a diverse array of distinctive lizards, including the primitive frog family Leiopelmatidae and the tuatara. Our native herpetofauna are unique for a number of reasons: they inhabit almost all terrestrial environments and show an extraordinary level of adaptation to cold climates; they exhibit extreme longevity, as well as long gestation periods and slow growth rates.
What is the conservation status of our native herpetofauna?
Unfortunately, the unique evolutionary history of NZ and the equally unique features of our native herpetofauna are what have left many species particularly vulnerable to predation by introduced mammals and the environmental change caused by humans. At present 29% of New Zealand’s reptile species are classified as threatened, with another 45% identified as being at risk. Sadly, tuatara and 37% of our endemic lizard species are now relegated to offshore islands. The greatest threats to New Zealand’s native herpetofauna continue to be habitat destruction and predation by introduced mammalian predators.
The New Zealand Department of Conservation publish a threat classification series, including one specifically for reptiles: