The Department of Conservation is calling on the public to keep a distance when observing lizards after receiving reports of people trying to take lizards from areas in Central Otago.
Senior ranger Annette Grieve said the department had received reports of people disturbing lizard habitats and trying to take the lizards home as pets from areas such as Butchers Dam, the Flat Top Hill conservation area and a section of the Otago Central Rail Trail.
Doc Central Otago senior ranger Trudy Anderson said while most people were respectful and gentle when encountering lizards, it was unacceptable for people to disturb their habitats or to keep them as pets.
“We understand this can be well-meaning – people worry lizards do not like the extremes in the Central Otago climate and think they need rescuing.
“We are confident that all our lizards have lived here a long time and are well adapted to our hot and cold temperatures. They are very adept at finding shelter all on their own.”
In Central Otago, there are at least nine species of lizard, of which six are threatened. They are under pressure from predation and habitat loss.
Mrs Anderson said Doc was keen to ensure people could enjoy the area’s lizard species without disturbing them.
“It’s fantastic we have people who are interested and excited about our lizard wildlife, and we want to encourage that as much as possible. We just want to make sure people are doing it in a way that’s not putting pressure on these special species.”
The department is urging people to admire the scaly animals from a distance, as holding lizards can be very stressful for them and can cause them to lose their tails.
It is against the law to hold lizards without a permit.
Doc is also encouraging people to create lizard habitats in urban environments by providing dense native shrubs and rocks in their gardens.
Sightings of geckos in alpine areas above 900m, or any threatened lizard sighting in Central Otago such as the jewelled gecko, Otago skink and grand skink, should be reported to Doc.
For more information, visit www.doc.govt.nz/nature/native-animals/reptiles-and-frogs/lizards/