Teeth of the Taniwha
The state of biodiversity today means that you can easily loose a species before you really know anything about it. That might have been true of a majestic skink, Niho Taniwha or the chevron skink (Oligosoma homalonotum). This skink was discovered at the turn of the 20th centry but then vanished into the mists of Great Barrier Island, the only place it was known from, for most of the rest of the century. Only in 1991 was it rediscovered by some diligent herpetologists. Not long after it’s range was extended to both Hauturu/Little Barrier and Great Barrier Island but sighting of these skinks were few and very far between. Were they extremely rare or just secretive and elusive in their behaviour? It turns out the truth is probably both. Very few people have observed these skinks in the wild much less got a proper feel for their ecology save their preference for very wet habitats. But one thing seems certain, these threatened skinks are seriously impacted by the introduced predatory mammals: rats and cats. Cats and rats have now been eradicated from their habitat on hugely significant Hauturu and so their future is looking a little rosier. What a simple and rewarding measure to protect the natural treasures of New Zeland.
The priority now is to extend such management to the skinks home on Great Barrier Island. Whilst we have no evidence of these skinks occuring on the mainland it seems very likly they once did. What a future to imagine, when these regal skinks can cruise quietly through the lush vegeation of gardens and reserves back on mainland New Zealand.