New Zealand Journal of Ecology (2012) 36(2): 151- 156

Assessment of microbranding as an alternative marking technique for long-term identification of New Zealand lizards

Research Article
Rod Hitchmough 1*
Keri Neilson 1,5
Kara Goddard 2
Mike Goold 2
Brett Gartrell 3
Stu Cockburn 1
Nicholas Ling 4
  1. Research & Development Group, Department of Conservation, PO Box 10 420, Wellington 6143, New Zealand
  2. Hamilton Zoo, Hamilton City Council, Private Bag 3010, Hamilton 3240, New Zealand
  3. New Zealand Wildlife Health Centre, Institute of Veterinary, Animal and Biomedical Sciences, Massey University Manawatu, Private Bag 11 222, Palmerston North 4442, New Zealand
  4. Department of Biological Sciences, University of Waikato, Private Bag 3105, Hamilton 3240, New Zealand
  5. Present address: Lake Management Officer, River & Catchment Services, Environment Waikato Regional Council, PO Box 4010, Hamilton East 2032, New Zealand
*  Corresponding author

‘Microbranding’, a system for individually identifying reptiles and amphibians based on a numbered code of spot brands applied to the body and limbs, was tested on New Zealand skinks and geckos. Common geckos (Woodworthia maculata) and copper skinks (Oligosoma aeneum) were used as test animals. Brands applied in autumn took 3 months or more to heal. There was no evidence of brand-related mortality or increased parasite loads in branded animals. However, after healing the brands faded very rapidly in the skinks to become totally unreadable in all surviving branded skinks after 2.5 years and not accurately readable in most geckos after 3 years. We therefore consider the technique unsuitable as a standard marking procedure for New Zealand lizards.