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 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:

  • Phil Bishop is passionate about frogs and talks about his research into frog disease. Find out more about his tailor-made frog tanning salons, built to treat a bone disease affecting our native frogs.
  • Alison Cree was involved in the establishment of Orokonui Ecosanctuary near Dunedin. Find out how this mainland island and Alison’s research may enable tuatara to return to the South Island.
  • Kelly Hare is interested in which captive management regimes result in the healthiest individuals for future translocations. Discover why she spends time chasing skinks down a reptile racetrack.

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.

Useful links

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