otago on rock

Our Primary Goals

The Central Otago Ecological Trust’s primary goals are to:

  • Provide opportunities for Central Otago communities to be actively involved in conservation
  • Provide ecotourism opportunities for the wider general public
  • Educate people about the special values of dryland ecosystems
  • Reintroduce fauna that has been lost from the Alexandra basin (starting with Otago and grand skinks)

The key to achieving these goals is to establish a large area free of pests that will provide a safe haven for reintroduced wildlife. Such an area has been enclosed by a pest-proof fence and subjected to intensive predator control to minimise the risk of predator reinvasion. The latest results from an intensive study conducted by the Department of Conservation shows that both methods will allow recovery of existing Otago skink populations at Macraes Flat in eastern Otago.

We tested whether the same could be achieved for a translocated population of skinks in the drier environment around Alexandra. Our first step was to undertake a pilot study to determine whether we can re-establish a wild population of skinks. We built a small 0.3-ha pest-proof fence near Alexandra and translocated 28 captive-bred Otago skinks into the fence. The fence was constructed by Pestproof Fences Ltd. The trial was successful and led to the construction of a larger 14 ha fence next door for full lizard translocations.

We are restoring the habitat inside for lizards in this larger site by removing the weeds and planting native species. We call this fence the Mokomoko Dryland Sanctuary (Mokomoko is a Maori word for lizard). It is the only pest-free dryland sanctuary in New Zealand.

Numerous other species will benefit from the Sanctuary. In the longer-term with recovery of vegetation, it may be possible to reintroduce other endangered native species that once roamed this area, such as green geckos, green skinks, cryptic skinks, Duvaucel’s gecko, tuatara, takahe and kiwi. This would provide a wonderful showcase of what this ecosystem may have looked like 200 years ago.