Rainbow Skins Stay Put, for now..

by Jacqui Wairepo


The Auckland Council biosecurity with the support of the Great Barrier Local Board continued its plague (rainbow) skink operation with a two-part programme running throughout the summer.

Auckland Council Biosecurity / Massey University researcher Jacqui Wairepo has spent many months on the island working with this pest species since her discovery of them at Tryphena Wharf in April 2013. This summerís effort was focussed on installing and maintaining an intensive trap network across the upper boundaries of the known plague skink infestation in order to better understand how far the population has spread throughout the localized area.

Between January and March two Unitec students (Shanti Morgan and Molly Wilson) were brought out to the island to repeat and expand upon the surveillance programme which had taken place the previous year. The students surveyed approximately 60 sites island-wide that had been deemed 'high risk', including all ports of entry, several campgrounds, businesses and residential properties.


Skink trap shelters used in both plague skink programs.

The result of the overall effort is that it appears the plague skink population remains contained within a small area at Tryphena, and that if they have managed to hitch a ride to any other part of the island they are unlikely to have been able to establish a breeding population there.

Whilst no firm plans are yet in place for the ongoing development of the project, all residents are asked to be mindful when coming and going from the mainland to not bring back any lizardy stowaways. As ludicrous as it may sound, plague skinks are keen travellers and make excellent stowaways, so please always check your luggage including potplants and sporting/camping equipment. Additionally, any goods or freight being collected from Tryphena Wharf should be inspected for pests before being further transported.

At a glance plague skinks are difficult to tell apart from many of our natives, however are known for their small size and colourful rainbow shine when in certain angles of sunlight. Unlike our native skinks they lay eggs and lots of them, which is one of the major threats they pose to our natives. If you suspect you have seen this pest please contact Jeremy Warden at the Auckland Council service centre in Claris: jeremy.warden@aucklandcouncil.govt.nz


Environmental News Issue 34 2015