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Auckland Zoo Cobble Skinks and Chesterfield Skinks

Discussion in 'New Zealand' started by Chlidonias, 12 Aug 2017.

  1. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    This is quite a long article so I've picked out some paragraphs to quote to give the jist of it. Read the article itself for more information. But basically, the Cobble Skink is a species of lizard endemic to a small coastal area on the West Coast which has had its only habitat destroyed - initially through a town being built on it and eventually through the last remaining bit being washed away in storms. A number were collected prior to the species' extinction in the wild and taken to Auckland Zoo for captive breeding and (hopefully) eventual release to a substitute habitat.

    New species discovered behind a pub – then saved from extinction

    "In 2007 reptile expert Tony Jewell noticed there was something very different about the little lizards that skittered beneath the cobble stones on the beach behind Miners on Sea pub and hotel in Granity. Built in 1892, the pub has a long history of serving nearby mining communities."

    "Conservationists began referring to this population as ‘cobble skinks,’ since they only inhabited the cobble stones that lined the beach near Granity. But things quickly became dire for the newly discovered skinks. Eight years after Jewell discovered the population, two surveys, one in 2015 and 2016, counted only around 30 animals left."

    "With only a few dozen left, conservationists decided something had to be done – and fast. Spring 2016 brought unusually high tides and storm surges, even as conservationists headed to the beach just behind Miners on Sea to implement Operation Skink Rescue. Over the next few months, they employed artificial rocks to entice the skinks to hide under them with funnel traps inside to catch them. Captured skinks were flown to Auckland Zoo where Gibson, the curator of birds and ectotherms, oversees their care. In all, conservationists captured 38 survivors."

    "Locals have seen zero cobble skinks behind the pub since – and scientists aren’t expecting to find anymore. Over the last year, waves have washed their habitat away."

    "Thanks to rapid action, the cobble skink’s story isn’t over yet. Researchers are currently looking for areas where one day the skinks may be able to be introduced back into the wild.

    “The difficulty is finding sites that have suitable habitat and are not being impacted by coastal erosion,” Freeman said.

    The Auckland Zoo expects to house the skinks – off exhibit – for several years at least. Keepers are now working on moving the skinks from quarantine cages into more naturalistic enclosures to facilitate breeding.

    “Without a captive programme [the cobble skink] will be extinct,” said Gibson. “Currently the programme might be considered an ‘Ark’ – the last hope for a displaced species with nowhere to live in the wild – but soon we hope it will become an active breeding and release programme, restoring the cobble skink to its original, or as near as we can manage, home on the West Coast of New Zealand.”"
     
    Last edited: 6 Aug 2018
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  2. zooboy28

    zooboy28 Moderator Staff Member

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    Huh, that's an interesting story. Kind of hope some would eventually go on display somewhere - perhaps an enclosure in the coast exhibit could be added. Would be cool to see.
     
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  3. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    A photo of one of the Cobble Skinks (off-show at the zoo) has been uploaded by @Najade

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: 6 Aug 2018
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  4. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    Another critically-endangered species of endemic skink is now housed at Auckland Zoo, the Chesterfield Skink (discovered in 1994, described in 2008, with a total population of c.200 individuals).

    There is a general blog about the skink here with photos: Recovering the Chesterfield skink (from 2016, this was before any skinks came to Auckland Zoo).

    I'm not sure when Auckland got their first individuals but they now have 48.

    There's a Twitter post here from 25 June 2018 (Auckland Zoo on Twitter) which says "We’re picking up our precious cargo from Auckland Airport! Inside are 7 Chesterfield skinks that will join us at Auckland Zoo, having flown in from Hokitika. This will bring our total Chesterfield skink numbers to 48, from an estimated wild population of 200!
     
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  5. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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