New Zealand Journal of Ecology (2013) 37(3): 272- 281

A review of reptile research and conservation management on Tiritiri Matangi Island, New Zealand

Review Article
Marleen Baling 1,2*
Dylan van Winkel 1,3
Melinda Rixon (née Habgood) 4,5
Jonathan Ruffell 6,7
Weihong Ji 1
Graham Ussher 8
  1. Institute of Natural and Mathematical Sciences, Massey University, Private Bag 102904, Auckland 0745, New Zealand
  2. Pacific Invasives Initiative, IUCN Invasive Species Specialist Group, The University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland 1142, New Zealand
  3. Bioresearches Group Ltd, PO Box 2828, Auckland 1140, New Zealand
  4. Auckland Council, Private Bag 92300, Auckland 1142, New Zealand
  5. Te Ngahere Ltd, PO Box 71109, Rosebank Post Centre, Auckland 1348, New Zealand
  6. 85 David Avenue, Manurewa, Auckland 2102, New Zealand
  7. Boffa Miskell Ltd, PO Box 91250, Auckland 1142, New Zealand
  8. Tonkin and Taylor Ltd, PO Box 5271, Auckland 1141, New Zealand
*  Corresponding author

Tiritiri Matangi Island is one of the oldest community-driven island restoration projects in New Zealand. While great effort has been directed towards recovery of vegetation and avian communities since the 1980s, restoration of the island’s reptile fauna has not been initiated until early 2000s. Tiritiri Matangi supports only three remnant reptile species, which is considerably low given the island’s size and geographic location. In recognition of this and the importance of reptiles in ecosystem function, translocations of several reptile species have been undertaken. The translocations presented opportunities for integrating in-depth scientific studies in regard to applied conservation management of native reptiles with experimental approaches. This review summarises research efforts on Tiritiri Matangi to date, including post-graduate studies that have contributed to: (1) baseline information on resident species (Oligosoma moco, O. aeneum, Woodworthia maculata, O. smithi & Naultinus elegans); (2) understanding the importance of seabird co-habitation for Sphenodon punctatus; (3) post-release behaviours (dispersal and habitat selection) of Hoplodactylus duvaucelii; (4) body colour adaptation of O. smithi following translocation; (5) quantifying avian predation on lizard populations; and (6) measuring the short-term success of all translocations. Numerous research opportunities remain, either on existing populations or future translocations to the island. Emphasis has been placed on the involvement of public and local community volunteers in all reptile research. These groups are key stakeholders in the restoration of Tiritiri Matangi. Measurement of translocation success for New Zealand reptiles is dependent on long-term monitoring (> 10 years) and research, since these endemic reptiles exhibit distinctive characteristics such as slow maturity, low reproductive rates, and very high longevity. The process of restoration of a fully functioning New Zealand ecosystem is similarly slow, therefore, long-term study or monitoring will also enable assessment of the island’s restoration outcome over time.