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What’s unique about our native reptiles and amphibians, and why are they at risk? Learn more about the science behind conservation efforts for them here in New Zealand.

This resource provides explanations of the key concepts encountered when exploring the conservation of native frogs, tuatara, skinks and geckos  – the ‘basics’ that every student should understand.

Amphibian

A class of animals that includes frogs, toads, salamanders and newts. In New Zealand, our only native amphibians are frogs.

Reptile

A class of animals that includes snakes, lizards, alligators, crocodiles, tortoises and turtles. In New Zealand, our only native reptiles are skinks, geckos and tuatara. Tuatara are the only living representative of a group known as Rhynchocephalia (sometimes known in the past as Sphenodontia).

Conservation

In biology, the protection, preservation and careful management of a species or environment – in this case, of reptiles and amphibians and their habitat.

Endangered species

A species is considered endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) when the best available evidence indicates that the species faces a very high risk of extinction in the wild.

Extinction

In biology, the death of the last remaining individual of a species. Extinction is a natural process, but there is global concern about the number of extinctions occurring due to human impacts.

Translocation

When plants or animals are transported to an area to establish a new population or to add genetic diversity to an existing population. Translocation is an important tool in species conservation and has been used extensively in New Zealand.

Reintroduction

Reintroduction is a type of translocation. It occurs when individuals are moved back to an area where the species was previously found. Reintroduction is an important tool in species conservation.

Mainland island

An area of land that has been isolated from the surrounding environment, usually with a predator-proof fence. Typically, the aim is to restore an area to its natural state. This may involve forest regeneration and the reintroduction of native species.

Offshore island

In conservation, a number of offshore islands have been cleared of predators and provide a sanctuary for our native species. Many of our endangered species are only found on these offshore islands.

Ectotherm

An animal whose body temperature is regulated by the surrounding temperature. Reptiles and amphibians are ectothermic.

Sex determination

The process by which a new embryo becomes a male or a female. In many animals, the sex of the young is determined by a specific chromosome in the father’s sperm. However, in some New Zealand reptiles, incubation temperature of the egg can influence the sex of the embryo.

Captive management

In conservation, captive management is where individuals are kept in captivity in some sort of enclosed space to assist survival of their species. This might be in a university lab, a zoo or a research centre.

Husbandry

In general terms, husbandry is the care of animals, including breeding and raising them. In this context, conservationists are interested in improving husbandry techniques for endangered species in order to successfully breed them in captivity.

Endemic

Native to only one location. Species endemic to New Zealand naturally occur only in New Zealand but may have been introduced elsewhere in the world.

Native

Naturally occurring in a specific place, not introduced by humans. An animal native to New Zealand has established here naturally and wasn’t introduced by people. Some species can be native to more than one country.

    Published 6 July 2016