By Andrea Crawford
When they’re born, Otago skinks really hit the ground running. No, seriously, running. DOC Otago skink rangers Sandra Soeder and Tim Lever were lucky enough to experience something very special and rewarding in the world of wildlife when they watched an Otago skink giving birth in the wild this season.
Check out this photo taken by Tim. Newborns emerge head first and literally hit the ground running. Without so much as a thank you to mum, the babies head for the sun and start hunting.
Grand and Otago skinks only live in Otago and are two of NZ’s largest and rarest lizards. They’re both nationally critically endangered but the Otago skink is one of the most critically threatened lizards in NZ.
The skinks have two sanctuaries in Otago, protected by predator proof fences. The one at Macraes Flat has managed to double skink numbers in four years after providing protection from being eaten by cats, stoats, ferrets, weasels and hedgehogs.
The other sanctuary, the Mokomoko Dryland Sanctuary near Alexandra (Mokomoko is a Maori word for lizard), is smaller but just as effective. A local trust, the Central Otago Ecological Trust, works with DOC to build up numbers of these skinks which had almost disappeared from this part of Otago.