This timeline provides look at some of the historical aspects of saving our reptiles and amphibians, the impacts on them by humans and our conversation efforts in New Zealand.
1200–1300 – Kiore arrive in NZ
Kiore (Pacific rats) arrive in New Zealand with the early Polynesian settlers. Kiore eat seeds, fruits, lizards, insects and the eggs and chicks of native birds. They are blamed for a number of early extinctions of native species.
1769 – Norway rats arrive in NZ
Norway rats arrive in New Zealand on James Cook’s ship Endeavour. They are excellent swimmers and quickly colonise the mainland as well as many offshore islands. Their varied diet includes reptiles, and they are blamed for a number of extinctions of native species.
1860s–1870s – Ship rats spread
Ship rats arrive on sealing, whaling and trading vessels and quickly spread throughout New Zealand. They are able to climb trees and have become the most widespread of the 3 introduced rat species.
1860s–1890s – Weasels, stoats and ferrets
Weasels, stoats and ferrets are introduced to try and control the spread of rabbits. These introduced mammals feed on native lizards and threaten the survival of many species.
1870 – Hedgehogs introduced
Hedgehogs are introduced to help control insects and garden pests. As well as eating large amounts of insects, they also feed on skinks and eggs of our ground-nesting native birds.
1895 – Tuatara legally protected
Tuatara are the first native species to be fully protected by law. Before this legal protection, tuatara and their eggs were regularly shipped overseas.
1897 – Kapiti Island reserve
Kapiti Island is designated an island reserve. In 1928, goats are eradicated from the island, followed by cats, deer, sheep, cattle, pigs and dogs. Possums are eradicated by 1986. When rats are eradicated in 1996, the island is declared completely free of introduced mammals.
1922 – Frogs legally protected
Native frogs are granted ‘absolute protection’ from human collection and interference. However, they are still threatened by introduced mammals and habitat loss.
1953 – Wildlife Act 1953
This Act grants ‘absolute protection’ to all native frogs and reptiles. They may not be collected from the wild, kept in captivity or disturbed in any way without a permit.
1960 – First successful rat eradication
Norway rats are eradicated from Maria Island (in the Hauraki Gulf) between 1960 and 1964. This is the result of rat poison drops by the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society and the New Zealand Wildlife Service.
1984–85 – First frog translocation
The first successful translocation of frogs takes place when 100 Maud Island frogs are moved to a suitable habitat 500 metres away from their original location.
1988 – First skink translocation
The first successful translocation of skinks takes place. 25 Whitaker’s skinks are moved to Korapuki Island and 40 Fiordland skinks are moved to Hāwea Island.
1992 – Skink recovery plans
The first skink recovery plan (for Whitaker’s skinks and robust skinks) is published. Between 1993 and 1999, a further 7 species of skink are included in recovery plans. Recovery plans detail the intended conservation actions for a particular species for a set period of time.
1993 – Tuatara recovery plan
The first tuatara recovery plan is published. The plan includes a number of conservation actions including rat eradications, translocations and improved husbandry techniques for keeping tuatara in captivity.
1995–2008 – Tuatara reintroductions
As part of the tuatara recovery plan, tuatara are reintroduced to 7 offshore islands and 1 mainland site.
1996 Native Frog Recovery Group
The Native Frog Recovery Group is established and the first native frog recovery plan completed.
1997 – First gecko translocation
The first successful translocation of geckos takes place. 41 Matapia geckos are moved to Motuopao Island, and 27 Pacific geckos are moved to Lady Alice Island.
1997 – Tuatara smugglers caught
A number of tuatara, stolen from Stephens Island, are intercepted by Department of Conservation officers in a roadside park near Geraldine in the South Island. Tuatara have a high value on the black market and are highly prized by overseas collectors.
1999 – Zealandia fence
The 8.6 kilometre predator-proof fence is completed. This is a world first! Following this, pest eradication creates a mainland island free of mammalian predators, and many native species are reintroduced.
2002 – NZ Threat Classification System
The New Zealand Threat Classification System is developed to enable ranking of our native species according to the threat of extinction. It is designed to complement the IUCN system and is tailored to New Zealand’s unique ecology.
2002 – Ferret law change
In New Zealand, the Biosecurity Act 1993 bans the sale, distribution and breeding of ferrets.
2006 – Stolen geckos
Three green geckos are stolen from Orana Wildlife Park in Christchurch. Police are able to recover the geckos before they are smuggled out of New Zealand.
2007 – A cure for chytrid
The frog research team at the University of Otago discovers that a common antibiotic (chloramphenicol) can cure frogs infected with the chytrid fungus. Chytrid fungus is killing amphibians around the world, and this discovery is an important breakthrough.
2008 – Maud island frog hatches
A number of Maud Island froglets hatch in Zealandia. This is the first time for hundreds of years that Maud Island frogs have hatched in the wild on the mainland – great news for frog conservation!
2008–2009 – Year of the Frog
The Year of the Frog campaign is launched in June 2008. The international campaign aims to raise public awareness and funds to help address amphibian extinctions.
2019 – Skink Spotter NZ launched
Citizen Science Project Skink Spotter NZ is launched to help monitor the Otago skink.
2020 – transfer to Orana Park
Transfer of 17 Maud Island frogs to Orana Park as part work of breeding Maud Island frogs in captivity to help conserve the species.
This April 2022 study has found that more than a fifth of the world's reptiles face imminent extinction.