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Native reptiles

Native reptiles

Updated 8 August 2019 9:11am



New Zealand has two main types of reptiles: lizards (geckos and skinks) and tuatara. All of them are endemic and many are quite unusual compared with other reptiles in the world.  Many are very long-lived and most give birth to live young, instead of laying eggs like other reptiles. There are dozens of species and sub-species of native skinks and geckos and there is still a lot we don’t know about them.

The Wellington region has 17 native lizard species, although one of these (the robust skink) is no longer found in the region, and several others are only living on offshore islands where there are no predators.

There are two types of lizards – geckos and skinks, known to Māori collectively as mokomoko. Once you know the difference, they are easy to tell apart. Skinks have scaly skin and narrow heads like a snake, while geckos have soft velvety skin, a defined neck and much larger eyes.

Tuatara are quite different. They are very early ancestors of modern lizards. Although now very rare, they were once seen throughout the country. In Wellington, tuatara are now only found in places where pest predators are intensively controlled, including at Zealandia, Nga Manu Nature Reserve and on some offshore islands.

Lizards live in all different environments, from rocky coastal scree slopes to wetlands and forests. In this region we have our own arboreal (tree dwelling) lizard, the Wellington green gecko.

You might even see native lizards in urban gardens. They will do much better if we can reduce the pressure of mammal predators and provide good habitat for them.

You can learn more about Wellington’s lizards and what is being done to look after them in the Lizard strategy for the Wellington region.

There are also some great national websites you could check out:


Tuatara at Nga manu