A population of 50 critically endangered Chesterfield skinks has now been established in captivity at Auckland Zoo.
In 2017, the entire population was estimated to be fewer than 200 individuals. However, the species was seriously impacted in February 2018 when tidal surges created by Cyclone Fehi destroyed almost half of their habitat. With the threat of coastal erosion increasing, DOC staff and volunteers caught 50 animals over the following months and had them flown to Auckland Zoo.
Auckland Zoo’s Richard Gibson, and his team, have created an environment replicating their natural West Coast micro-habitat and climate so that they can continue to display all their natural behaviours, to help maximise their chances of survival once they are able to be returned to a safe area in the wild. The next step is for DOC to build a predator-proof enclosure at a suitable site for the skinks that is less prone to erosion, where a predator proof fenced area will provide protection from mice, feral cats, stoats, and rats. Once this is complete DOC will return the captive population to the fenced area.