Rare skink, believed on the verge of extinction, found in Niue

Aug 21, 2017

Fiafia Rex, Ridge to Reef Technical Officer holding one of the captured skinks. Photo credit: UNDP/Ridge to Reef/2017.

Pacific conservationists and international scientists are very excited that a Niuean skink thought close to extinction has been re located. The Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) today announced the find of the Olive small-scaled skink Emoia lawesi by a member of its Ridge to Reef (R2R) project team.

A reptile survey of Niue that had recently been conducted by the Ministry, with the assistance of experts from United States Geological Survey (USGS) and Villanova University, found no trace of the animal. However publicity during that survey alerted a tourist, Cindy Pannam, who recently saw a large skink and sent in a photo to the Ministry that was identified as this species. R2R Technical Officer, Fiafia Rex immediately set 23 traps in the area around the sighting and was delighted to capture three of the animals on the third day. Fiafia said, “This is such a great research success story. I doubted that I would find any skinks so soon and then to find three was amazing!  I am extremely grateful to Cindy who alerted us of her sighting, the land owners for their permission to survey in the area, and the concerted efforts of the research team including the Department of Environment and the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, under the MNR umbrella.”  

USGS herpetologist Stacie Hathaway said “This is incredibly exciting finding that this endangered species, known globally only from Niue and American Samoa, still persists on Niue. Tissues from specimens are critical for genetic analyses to clarify the systematics and conservation status of these Pacific reptiles, to determine whether there may be two separate species making both endemics. We look forward to continuing working with the Ministry and the R2R project to assess this species' distribution.”

The Niue Ridge to Reef project is a 5-year initiative being delivered by MNR, with implementing agency the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and funded under the Global Environment Facility (GEF).

Anne Trevor of UNDP’s Multi-Country Office for Cook Island, Niue, Samoa and Tokelau commented: “The reptile survey is the first of several ecological and cultural surveys that will conducted by the project to inform the development of conservation management plans within Niue and achieving this result is a great start. She congratulated all the team involved.”

 

Contact information

Thomas Talagi, Communications Officer, Ridge to Reef Project, Ministry of Natural Resources, Niue.
Email:  thomas.talagi@mail.gov.nu
Phone: +683 4741

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