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:

December 2020: The annual Department of Conservation monitoring of the grand and Otago skink population found good numbers of adults again, and some more babies. 

Total newborns sighted is now 13 jewelled gecko, nine grand skinks and nine Otago skinks. In January we'll start keeping our eyes open for the this summer's babies!  


James Kilduff and Joel Knight worked at Mokomoko for ten days, on a conservation placement from their role as Reptile Keepers at Wellington Zoo. 


Read more of the latest news in our December newsletter here.

Tim Whittaker, Dhana Pillai and Carey Knox spot a jewelled gecko by torchlight, when the direct beams illuminate the solid form of their bodies in the shrubs, making it (slightly) easier to find them than in daylight. Photo: Anna Yeoman

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