Skinks shifted to enhance survival

A 1g skink named Tiny Tim is proof of a nationally  critical species’ translocation success in...
A 1g skink named Tiny Tim is proof of a nationally critical species’ translocation success in Fiordland. PHOTO: DOC
Weighing only one gram, Tiny Tim — a Te Kakahu skink — is living proof of a nationally critical species’ translocation success.

While they may not be the cutest or cuddliest of New Zealand’s species, Mohua Trust general manager Hannah Edmonds said they were one of a kind.

Their lack of fluffy fur made funding lizard conservation efforts difficult — "people don’t really care about the skinks of the world".

However, 99 of the skinks, named after the 50sqm Fiordland island where they were discovered in 2002, found a new home on Anchor Island in Dusky Sound after a project between Mohua Trust and the Department of Conservation translocated them in 2018 in an attempt to protect the species.

A few weeks ago, Doc biodiversity ranger Bex Jackson took a trip to the island to see how they were doing. During her visit she saw at least five babies, which gave confirmation of the population breeding.

Among them was Tiny Tim.

She said while the largest population was on Chalky Island — about 1000 — during a lizard-locating boat trip around 50 Fiordland islands, another small population was found.

"We actually found them on an additional tiny, tiny island. It was still an island, but it was really, really small.

"People never knew if they were more widespread, or if they were just on Chalky."

By increasing separate populations of the species, it would increase chances of the species’ overall survival.

"They’re doing great on Chalky Island, but it’s just one tiny place and if it is overrun with predators or there is a fire it could easily wipe out the whole population."

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