Eagle-eyed people who have ever spotted an Otago skink in the Alexandra district are being called on to help with research.
The team at Central Stories Museum and Art Gallery is on the hunt for historic information on the lizards, no matter how long ago their sighting was.
Central Stories general manager Maurice Watson wants to hear from anyone who might have seen one of them and be able to share information.
“We want to make contact with people who think they may have seen these Otago skinks in the Alexandra region over the years. It could be in the 1960s, or 1970s, or 1980s.”
Two Otago skinks are on display in an indoor enclosure at the Central Stories Museum and Art Gallery.
Mr Watson said the Central Stories board plans to establish an outside enclosure in 2022, which would house both Otago skinks and the jewelled gecko.
“The concept is that Central Stories will be the main public advocacy point for these rare and endangered species.
“We see a unique opportunity to show visitors and locals up close and in detail, some of the rarest animals from this region and to talk about why they are important and what the risks are for them in the wild.”
Mr Watson said the skinks were one significant aspect of this region’s “exceptional” biodiversity.
The Otago skink is classified as being in the highest threat category for living New Zealand animals and is regarded “endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of endangered species.
“There are thought to be only between 2000 and 10,000 of these animals still alive and only in two very small areas of Central Otago,” Mr Watson said.
The jewelled gecko was widely dispersed in Central Otago but is now mainly found in coastal areas of Otago.
Central Stories has been working with Grant Norbury, of Landcare Research, and John Robinson, from NIWA, to ensure the conditions for the inside enclosure are optimal for the health of the two Otago skinks currently there.
“The animals are weighed and measured to ensure they are in good health; and both temperature and UV light are monitored to ensure the conditions are suitable for bone growth and development,” Mr Watson said.
The team at Central Stories is also looking for a volunteer who can build a moth light trap and provide a regular supply of moths or live slaters.