Frequently asked questions

Why are NZ reptiles endangered?

The great majority of New Zealand geckos and skinks now live in relatively small pockets of suitable environment, as habitat destruction and modification has restricted their previous ranges of activity. These little “islands” of existence are often vulnerable to further habitat destruction, and this allied with predators such as rats, feral cats, and stoats, means the future existence of many of these beautiful lizards is questionable, especially on mainland New Zealand.

What shall I do with the lizard that the cat brings in?

If the lizard is not injured, find a dense clump of vegetation and release the lizard – high up in the branches if it is a gecko, or near old logs if it is a skink. If it is injured, place the animal in a shoe-box, or an ice-cream container with holes in the lid, and give it to the local DOC office.

For more information see sick, injured, or dead reptiles.

What are the main predators of lizards and frogs?

Cats, dogs, stoats, rats, blackbirds, hedgehogs, magpies and kingfishers. Humans modify the environment and destroy their habitats.

What is a herpetologist?

Someone who keeps and/or studies amphibians (including frogs, toads, salamanders, newts, and caecilians) and reptiles (including snakes, lizards, amphisbaenids, turtles, terrapins, tortoises, crocodilians, and the tuataras).

What do you need to be able to keep geckos and/or skinks?


Anyone interested in keeping New Zealand lizards must obtain a permit from the Department of Conservation. As it is forbidden to collect any animals from the wild, contact will need to be made with someone who already holds geckos and/or skinks, and who has some spare animals to give away. Like all protected NZ native species, geckos and skinks cannot be bought or sold.


It is usual for their caging arrangement to be inspected by a Department officer before a permit will be issued. It is recommended that any potential keeper of lizards should contact and join the New Zealand Herpetological Society, where they will be able to obtain advice on building suitable caging and contacting other lizard keepers.


Preferences for food items tend to vary from species to species, and variations will also differ according to physical size of the individual animal. Live moths appear to be a favourite food item for nearly all lizards, with live flies, grubs, crickets, grasshoppers, caterpillars, small spiders, earwigs, small wetas, slaters, and invertebrates such as hoppers finding favour with various species. Many animals will also eat soft berries, nectar from flowers, and honeydew on a seasonal basis. Some skinks are known to eat carrion and varieties that live near colonies of sea birds have been seen to eat remains of partially digested fish, and lap up regurgitated stomach oil from the birds.

What are the differences between skinks and geckos?

A useful saying is “skinks blink, geckos don’t”. Skinks have shiny, streamlined bodies with smooth overlapping scales; they are also move much more quickly than geckos. Geckos are velvety, with large, defined, heads. As the gecko grows it periodically sheds it skin whole or in large pieces, unlike skinks which rub off small patches.

Why is it considered to be important for people to keep captive lizards?

Captive populations and captive breeding programmes are a way to help support wild populations, captive animals can also be used in educational programmes.

What is the reproductive strategy of our native lizards?

Apart from the Egg-laying skink (Oligosoma suteri), all New Zealand geckos and skinks give birth to live young. This method of reproduction is called ovoviviparous (carry eggs internally, which hatch during the birth process), and is a little unusual, as the great majority of geckos throughout the world, and more than half of the world’s skinks are oviparous (lay eggs).

Geckos usually have twins, while skinks can have between two to eight babies depending on the species, and generally the larger the species, the more young are born. Babies are born in Summer or early Autumn (January to May), however, different species give birth at different times of the year especially under captive conditions.

How long do native reptiles live for?

Little is known about the age to which geckos and skinks will survive to in the wild. Predation by introduced species in the wild has reduced the natural lifespan of lizards. It is likely that individuals will only reach their full lifespan on predator free islands, for example common gecko (Woodworthia maculata) may exceed 30 years, and Duvaucel's gecko (Hoplodactylus duvaucelii) live to at least 50 years.

The New Zealand Herpetological Society has longevity records of animals in captivity, with an Otago skink reaching 40 years, a Maculatus gecko at 37 years, a Duvaucels gecko at 32 years, and forest geckos reaching 40 years and Auckland green geckos more than 25 years.

When do native skinks and geckos reach sexual maturity and start to reproduce?

Young reach maturity at approximate three years of age, with some variance according to species and condition. Size appears to be the main determining factor in ability to mate. Some geckos in captivity that have been well fed since birth have been known to mate when only two years old and produce viable progeny, although many first births are single babies rather than the usual twins.