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  • New Zealand’s native species evolved in isolation from other regions for millions of years after the last land bridge to Gondwana was lost. Birds and insects dominated our ecosystems, and the only native mammals are 2 species of bat.

    Reptiles and amphibians under threat

    As a result of this unique history, the survival methods of our native reptiles and amphibians are not adapted to predatory animals introduced by Polynesian and European settlers, and these predators have had devastating effects. For example, our native frogs had evolved a ‘freezing’ defence mechanism – this is very effective against birds that hunt using sight but useless against mammals that hunt using smell. These introduced mammals, as well as disease and loss of habitat, threaten the survival of our remaining reptiles and amphibians.

    Let’s explore…

    In our collection of resources, we take a closer look at our native reptiles and amphibians. We find out why the tuatara really is one of a kind, we examine the differences between skinks and geckos, and we learn more about the unique features of our native frogs.

    We investigate current and historic threats, how conservation rankings help to prioritise actions and what it really means if a species becomes extinct. Find out what is being done to help save our native reptiles and amphibians in New Zealand and discover some of the conservation management tools used, including captive management and translocation.

    Meet our scientists

    We meet 3 scientists who are actively involved in reptile and amphibian conservation research:

    Take up the challenge

    The student activities involve hands-on challenges and opportunities for observation and discussion.

    • Prey behaviour: freeze or flee is a physically active simulation to highlight why mammalian predators have had such a dramatic effect on our native creatures.
    • Create a lizard-friendly habitat provides students with ideas on how to attract skinks and geckos to the school grounds.
    • Observation: learning to see looks at the role of observation in science and gives students the opportunity to boost their observation skills.
    • Similarities and differences: skinks and geckos uses a Venn diagram to illustrate key characteristics and observations.
    • Conservation ranking in action explores the processes and criteria used to rank animals according to their conservation threat status.
    • Ethics in conservation science encourages students to consider the conservation of native frogs from a number of different perspectives.
    • Read the Connected article Kimihia Kermit. It describes how students and Ngāti Mutunga teamed up with an ecologist to investigate frog populations in North Taranaki. Can you design a similar survey?
    • Frogs for the future? is a ready-to-use cross-curricular teaching resource. It uses the Connected article Kimihia Kermit as the starting point.

    Question bank

    The Saving reptiles and amphibians – question bank provides an initial list of questions about saving reptiles and amphibians and places where their answers can be found. The questions support an inquiry approach.

    Key terms

    For explanations of key concepts, see Saving reptiles and amphibians key terms


    Explore the timeline to see look at some of the historical aspects of saving our reptiles and amphibians, the impacts on them by humans and our conversation efforts in New Zealand.

    Writer's insight

    Have you ever wondered how our resource collections come about? Hub content creator Cath Battersby explains why she wrote this content and how it fits into the New Zealand Curriculum.

    Citizen science

    FrogID is an online citizen science project that identifies and records the location of introduced frog species in New Zealand.

    Skink Spotter NZ is an online citizen science project that identifies whether skinks are present in time-lapse image sequences. The information will inform scientists about the link between skink behaviour and weather conditions.

    Useful links

    See the New Zealand Herpetological Society (NZHS) website, it has comprehensive and freely available online resources about Aotearoa’s reptiles and amphibians.

    In 2014 the inaugural WWF-New Zealand Conservation Innovation Awards winning entries showcased innovative technological advances, such as Trap Minder, CatTracker and CatchIT. These will all help with the conservation efforts to protect our native species. Find out more about these awards on the WWF website here.


      Published 11 December 2009, Updated 3 November 2014 Referencing Hub articles
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