Skinks have sleek, smooth skin. Geckos have baggy, velvety skin and broad heads.

Why lend lizards a hand?

The lower North Island is home to nine species of lizard, eight of which can be found on the Miramar Peninsula.

  • Skinks and geckos are helpful gardens inhabitants, eating pest invertebrates such as insects, snails and slugs.
  • Lizards help disperse the seeds of some of our native plants, and also pollinate their flowers.

Sadly, skink and gecko numbers have declined over time due to loss and fragmentation of habitat, and predation by introduced mammals and birds.

Habitat loss

Urban development and a trend toward manicured gardens and cleared spaces has led to a decrease in the availability of shelter, habitat and food resources for lizards.

Introduced predators

A major threat to our lizards comes from the suite of unnatural predators they face. Non-native species such as rats, cats, hedgehogs, blackbirds and starlings are all too efficient at preying on our skinks and geckos.

Geckos and skinks are incompatible with cats. If you own or are visited by a cat you will need to ensure there is plenty of extra shelter where the lizards can live safely.

Have you seen the Wellington green gecko?

Wellington green gecko
Wellington green gecko (Photo: Lauren Schaer)

The threatened Wellington green gecko is bright lime green, sometimes with rows of white or yellow patches. The blue tongue is a distinguishing feature, as is the versatile tail used as a fifth limb for balance and climbing. These geckos frequent bushy plants and epiphytes. Stands of manuka and kanuka are favoured locations. This rarely seen species is in gradual decline due to pests and loss of habitat.

If you've seen a Wellington green gecko on the Miramar Peninsula contact us or the EcoGecko Consultants:

How can I attract and protect geckos and skinks?

Creating a lizard-friendly habitat in your garden is simple enough, you just have to ‘think skink’ and put some gecko in your ‘eco’logical restoration.

Remember, all native lizards are protected under the Wildlife Act, and may not be captured, collected or deliberately disturbed without a permit issued by the Department of Conservation.

The nocturnal Common gecko loves nectar of flax. (Phormium sp)

Swap spray for skinks

Insecticide kills garden insects indiscriminately, not only reducing the number of helpful insects in your garden but reducing the food available for skinks and geckos also.

Avoid using snail pellets; snails that have consumed poison will be harmful to the lizards that eat them.

Not too neat

Perfectly mowed lawns, open paths and clean flower beds are unsuitable for lizards; they do not offer any kind of protection or food. Sometimes, we are so busy cleaning natural debris from our gardens that few lizard-friendly areas remain.

Leave a good supply of leaves and twigs on the ground – this provides habitat for insects that the lizards eat, and also enables them to move around safely.


Thick, prickly plantings will deter cats, providing a safer habitat for skinks and geckos. Encourage thick plant growth on banks and borders and create refuge crevices.

Use different divaricating or spiny plants, such as the already rare shrubby totaro (Muhlenbeckia astonii), speargrass (Aciphylla squarrosa) and matagouri (wild Irishman/Discaria toumatou). Garden structure is important when attracting wildlife. Trees, shrubs, groundcovers and grasses of different heights provide the necessary food, shelter and nesting sites for a range of animals, including lizards.

Stone or restraining walls with plenty of small cracks, gaps and crevices offer excellent shelter for geckos. Encourage native vines and other plants to grow around and on them. Some people allow native vines on buildings to reach the top so geckos can get in and out easily.

Other garden features such as ponds, hollow or rotten logs, rockeries, pipes, concrete slabs and roofing iron are perfect for housing lizards. Most old building material works great as long as it is non-toxic.


Mulch your garden heavily; it will improve water retention for plants and also create a humid environment for lizards (especially Oligosoma) and their invertebrate prey. Leaving natural mulch on the ground will also control weeds, save water and attract micro-organisms that improve soil condition.

Lizards get much of their moisture from their food and have very efficient bodies that lose little moisture through their skin. However, they will readily drink if water is available, especially in hot weather.

Some lizards, for example ornate and copper skinks, are active at dawn and dusk (crepuscular) and prefer moist, humid sites, avoiding hot, dry north-facing slopes.


Lizards are cold-blooded animals and rely on the sun to raise their body temperature. Incorporate rocks into your garden landscape where they can be warmed by the sun, on north-facing areas and slopes. Elevate the rocks slightly, or put them in a little pile so the lizard can slip under it when threatened.

Logs or a brick path will also absorb the warmth of the sun. Plant groundcover along the edges to enable a quick dash to safety.

Take care when disturbing ground

If you intend to clear areas of the garden, construct some lizard-friendly habitat first. Lizards can sometimes be found in infestations of the weed wandering willie (tradescantia). If you replace weeds that are harbouring lizards, do so gradually to ensure a safe change.

Top plants for lizards

Plants that flower close to the ground bring insects and flies within a lizard’s reach. As well as eating invertebrates and nectar, lizards supplement their diet with berries. Native fruits small enough to be a mouthful come from Coprosma, Muehlenbeckia, Melicytus or Gaultheria.

Plants for complexity and height

Species to give protection from predators

Vines to connect habitats

Thick ground covers for retreat sites

Clump forming for camouflage and insects

Food species