New Zealand's first true dryland sanctuary is bringing the lizards back to Central Otago. 

Mokomoko Dryland Sanctuary is New Zealand’s first fully-fenced dryland sanctuary, with a vision of restoring to a small patch of Central Otago the unique ecosystem that existed before human settlement.


The focus of this community sanctuary is the diverse and beautiful lizard species that once lived in these drylands, sun basking on the rocky tors and clambering through the scrub.


In late 2019 a survey was carried out to see how well the translocated lizards were going.

Get a behind the scenes look at the running of Mokomoko Dryland Sanctuary.

Photo: Anna Yeoman

Photo: Anna Yeoman

Photo: Carey Knox

Recent happenings:

October 2020: The lizards have emerged from their winter semi-hibernation, and are back out and about at the Sanctuary, enjoying the springtime sun and milder temperatures. 


Volunteers have been out monitoring the grand and Otago skinks. Already this season they've sighted five more of the Otago skinks from the founding population, meaning that two thirds of the founders have now been sighted since release, encouraging news. 


A couple of new babies have also been seen, bringing the total newborns sighted to five Otago and five grand skinks. 

A baby Otago skink, Oo10, born in late summer 2020 and re-sighted this September. It's great to see evidence of the newborns surviving the winter. 

With grateful thanks to our major supporters:

Schist gecko. Carey Knox

Slideshow photos top of page: 1. Otago skink, Carey Knox.     2. Mokomoko Dryland Sanctuary. Anna Yeoman.   3.  Jewelled gecko, Carey Knox.      4. Melicytus alpinus. Anna Yeoman.   5. Mokomoko Dryland Sanctuary.     6. McCanns skink. Carey Knox. 

Contact us:

Email Grant Norbury at:


Tel: +64-21-1783604

Central Otago Ecological Trust
PO Box 282
New Zealand






© 2019 Anna Yeoman for the Central Otago Ecological Trust