Native vegetation grows around the huge schist outcrops. Credit: Anna Yeoman
Mokomoko Dryland Sanctuary lies in hill country near Alexandra, Central Otago, where a 1.6 kilometre predator-proof fence surrounds 14 hectares of unique dryland habitat. Within its fence we're beginning to glimpse what pre-human Central Otago would have looked like. Large schist tors dot the steep gullies and hillsides and form ideal habitat for rock-loving lizards. Native dryland vegetation is beginning to find its feet again, and a diversity of fruiting and flowering shrubs, trees and herbs provide food and shelter for lizards and invertebrates.
Fifteen years ago the Central Otago Ecological Trust formed with a vision of bringing back the critically endangered local lizard species that had been lost from their dryland home. Through the work of the Trust and volunteers, and with the support of the local community, iwi and generous donors, the vision is being realised.
150 endangered geckos and skinks were introduced to Mokomoko Dryland Sanctuary in 2018, and they look to have made themselves at home. It’s still early days for this pioneering sanctuary, and their vision is to return more lizards, and perhaps in time tuatara, weta, takahe and kiwi, to this land they used to roam.