New Zealand geckos and skinks are absolutely protected under the Wildlife Act 1953, this means you cannot collect native lizards from the wild (or even handle them - unless you are moving them from harms way). So, to keep native geckos or skinks in captivity you will need to obtain a Wildlife Act authorisation from the Department of Conservation (DOC).
Wildlife Act authorities (permits) are granted by DOC and allow the NZ public to hold (keep) some of these protected species in captivity. When granted an authorisation, keepers are only allowed to acquire lizards from others with a relevant permit. It is illegal to collect NZ lizards from the wild and it is also illegal to release captive bred NZ lizards into the wild, so keepers must ensure they can find homes for any lizards they breed.
Having an authorisation also entails a level of record keeping / reporting to DOC. This requires keeping track of the animals you are holding including births, deaths, and tranfers between yourself and other authorised holders. Use the following link for more detailed information on Record Keeping.
If you are interested in keeping NZ lizards, getting started is easy, but we recommend you read through the Husbandry/Keeping section on our website first, and the DOC Guide to keeping New Zealand Lizards in captivity, to familiarise yourself with their requirements before applying for a permit or seeking out lizards. New Zealand geckos and skinks can live for over 50 years, so keeping them can be a long-term commitment.
First Level Permits – General Authorisations:
When you apply to DOC for a permit to keep native lizards the first permit you obtain will be the 'General Authorisation' to hold NZ lizards in captivity. You must be a resident or citizen of New Zealand and 16 years or older to apply for a General Authorisation, and this covers a range of more-common geckos, that are also relatively easier to keep in captivity.
The following species are included on the General Authorisation:
- Naultinus grayii (Northland green gecko)
- Naultinus elegans (Elegant gecko)
- Naultinus punctatus (Barking gecko)
- Dactylocnemis pacificus (Pacific gecko)
- Dactylocnemis “North Cape” (North Cape Pacific gecko)
- Dactylocnemis “Matapia Island” (Matapia gecko)
- Mokopirirakau granulatus (Forest gecko)
- Mokopirirakau “Southern North Island” (Southern North Island forest gecko)
- Woodworthia maculata (Raukawa gecko)
- Woodworthia “Central Otago” (Central Otago gecko)
- Woodworthia “Cromwell” (Cromwell Gecko)
- Woodworthia “Kaikouras” (Kaikouras gecko)
- Woodworthia “Marlborough Mini” (Marlborough mini gecko)
- Woodworthia “Mount Arthur” (Mount Arthur gecko)
- Woodworthia “Otago Southland” (Large Otago gecko)
- Woodworthia “Southern Alps” (Southern Alps gecko)
- Woodworthia “Southern mini” (Southern mini gecko)
- Woodworthia cf. brunnea (Canterbury gecko)
- Hybrids of those species listed above
The most readily-available of these species are the Northland green gecko (Naultinus grayii), elegant gecko (Naultinus elegans), barking gecko (Naultinus punctatus), forest gecko (Mokopirirakau granulatus), and to a lesser extent the Raukawa gecko (Woodworthia maculata) and Pacific gecko (Dactylocnemis pacificus). Many of the other species are either absent or very rare in captivity, but (as stated before) cannot be collected from the wild. Ensure that you only obtain those species listed on your permit, or you may risk your permit being revoked and/or lizards being confiscated.
It is important to consider from the outset what species and numbers of each you intend to keep, then make sure you are well-prepared for the space they require. To avoid the very high risk of hybridisation, species in the same genus (the first part of their scientific name i.e. Naultinus, Dactylocnemis, Mokopirirakau, Woodworthia) should not be housed in the same enclosure. For example, if you wanted to keep both elegant geckos (Naultinus elegans) and Northland green geckos (Naultinus grayii), you will need two enclosures to keep them separated. However, species from different genera that co-exist in the wild can be housed together in the same enclosure, for example elegant geckos (Naultinus elegans) and forest geckos (Mokopirirakau granulatus) can be housed together in the same enclosure. Green geckos (Naultinus) are particularly prone to hybridisation, although creating such hybrids is unethical because it decreases any conservation value of captive stock, it also risks a keeper’s permit being revoked if done intentionally. For more details on what species can be housed together, refer to our Care Guides and the DOC best practice guide to keeping NZ lizards in captivity.
Both geckos and skinks can be highly territorial in captivity (particularly males) so large numbers should not be kept in the same enclosure. For this reason, we recommend no more than a single male, and one or two females of any given species per enclosure. For the more aggressive species it is recommended to keep no more than a single pair in the same enclosure, and keepers should be vigilant for any signs of injury or suppression in the animals they keep.
More information about the ecology of species that can be kept on a General Authorisation can be found on the Herpetofauna section. Further details about the husbandry requirements of these species, can be found in the Husbandry and Care Guides sections of our website.
If you feel you are ready to obtain a general authorisation, the application can be found on the Department of Conservations website here:
You will need a photo of your enclosure for your application. Make sure that you have the correct set-up for the species you intend to keep. If you’re unsure, feel free to contact the NZHS for advice using our Contact form (link at the bottom of each page).
Higher Level Permits:
Species of New Zealand lizards in captivity that are rare, or of higher conservation-value than those on the General Authorisation, may only be kept under a higher-level Wildlife Act authority / permit. Keepers must have at least three years’ experience keeping NZ lizards on a General Authorisation to demonstrate their proficiency, and fulfil their reporting obligations (Annual Returns) to demonstrate they are reliable to be entrusted with rarer species.
The process to get a permit for keeping less-common lizards involves completing in a general wildlife authority form (General form 9). Keepers will need:
- A proposal, outlining their intentions for applying to keep rarer species.
- A description of their set-up with accompanying images.
- A signed declaration by an independent third person.
Before applying, we recommend any keepers intending to progress to this level familiarise themselves with the ecology and husbandry requirements for any of the species they intend to keep. Those listed below and marked with an asterisk (*) have proved to be particularly challenging in captivity, requiring a higher level of husbandry knowledge to maintain.
Here is the link to General form 9 on the DOC website:
More information about these permits can be found on the following link:
Species on higher-level permits are divided into those that may be of value for insurance populations, and those that are of high conservation value, likely to be used in breed-for-release programmes to establish new populations in the wild.
Insurance Population Species:
The following species have been identified by DOC as having moderate conservation value, requiring a minimum of three years keeping experience before a permit will be considered.
Duvaucel’s gecko (Hoplodactylus duvaucelii)
Copper skink (Oligosoma aeneum)
Jewelled gecko (Naultinus gemmeus)
Ornate skink (Oligosoma ornatum) *
Marlborough green gecko (Naultinus manukanus)
Shore skink (Oligosoma smithi)
Starred gecko (Naultinus stellatus)
Moko skink (Oligosoma moco)
Rough gecko (Naultinus rudis)
Speckled skink (Oligosoma newmani) *
West Coast green gecko (Naultinus tuberculatus)
Spotted skink (Oligosoma kokowai) *
Goldstripe gecko (Woodworthia chrysosiretica)
Green skink (Oligosoma chloronoton) *
The following species were formerly identified by DOC as 'category C species' having higher conservation value than other 'Insurance population' species. It is recommended holders attain a minimum of six years’ keeping experience before applying for these species.
- Falla’s skink (Oligosoma fallai)
- Small-scaled skink (Oligosoma microlepis)
- Scree skink (Oligosoma waimatense)
- McGregor’s skink (Oligosoma macgregori) *
High Conservation Value / Breeding Programme species:
The following species’ captive populations were identified by DOC as having the highest potential conservation value, and are either currently being used for conservation breeding programmes, or will likely be used in the near future. As such, permits to hold these species are strictly controlled; only granted at the discretion of the DOC Lizard Technical Advisory Group and with the relevant Iwi consultation.
- Otago skink (Oligosoma otagense)
- Grand skink (Oligosoma grande)
- Robust skink (Oligosoma alani)*
- Whitaker’s skink (Oligosoma whitakeri)*
If you have any further questions about keeping New Zealand Lizards in captivity or applying for permits, feel free to get in touch via our contact form. Due to privacy issues, we cannot provide information on who to source captive native lizards from, although the NZHS facilitates the exchange of captive bred lizards between our members who have the relevant permits.