Rare lizard thriving on Chalky Island

Submitted by editor on

6 May 2016

Rare lizard thriving

The vulnerable Chalky Island/Te Kakahu skink is a nationally critically endangered skink, which exists in a small area on Chalky Island/ Te Kakahu O Tamatea in southwest Fiordland and is part of Fiordland National Park. Liz Collins, Owner and with General Manager, Teresa Scott of the sustainable creative kiwi clothing company Chalky Digits recently accompanied Department of Conservation rangers on their three yearly monitoring programme of these skinks on Chalky Island. For funder Chalky Digits and the Fiordland Conservation Trust, this is their first herpetofauna project and it was a great success.

Creating a significant conservation milestone, Chalky and the two Passage Islands were the first islands in history where an attempt was made to eradicate stoats from an island, which was successful in 1999 and all 3 islands have been predator free ever since. Predator free islands like Chalky Island are important for lizards, as they’re highly vulnerable to predators, including mice. The Te Kakahu skink was only discovered in 2002, and confirmed as a distinct species in 2011. A population estimate undertaken by DOC in 2013 indicated the skinks were relatively abundant. This follow up monitoring confirmed those results.

Teresa Scott says, “It is an immense privilege to help protect one of New Zealand’s rare and very unique species. It’s very important to keep tabs on how these lizards are getting on, so we can ensure they stick around for the future. With part of our sponsorship funds coming from sales of our clothing range and accessories, it’s fantastic that our loyal Chalky friends are also helping to protect this very special lizard.” Liz Collins echoes Scott’s sentiments: “Chalky Island is such a special place to us, and as one of our country’s pest-free sanctuaries it’s also hugely important to the successful conservation of our native species. We were also ecstatic with the abundance of South Island robins/kakaruai we helped translocate to this safe haven in 2010 with DOC and the Trust. They are so plentiful now, they’re being considered as a seed source for establishing populations on other bird sanctuaries which is simply the best news!”

Trust Chair, Kim Hollows acknowledges the commitment of Chalky Digits to conservation and particularly to Chalky Island, the site of their very first conservation project with the Trust. “This is an incredibly busy time for Chalky Digits in the run up to getting their Winter 2016 range completed and in store, so they could get to Chalky Island and participate in the monitoring the skinks. We’re extremely grateful for their ongoing support of conservation projects and thrilled that Chalky Digits also finds inspiration for their graphics from their conservation projects.”