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Action at home: A safe haven for lizards
ZEALANDIA Ecosanctuary

Action at home: A safe haven for lizards

Zealandia member and wildlife photographer, Holly Neill, is an avid conservationist who found a love for New Zealand wildlife while learning to photograph birds at Zealandia. After moving to Kāpiti, her love of wildlife has stepped up a notch as she’s filled her garden with native plants and an ever-evolving lizard garden, named Mokomoko Manor, taking over her sunny back yard.  We asked Holly to tell us a bit more about how she created her lizard garden and what advice she’d give to others wanting to do the same.


Mokomoko Manor - Holly Neill

It all started a few years ago, after Holly discovered a northern grass skink in her garden, and decided she needed to provide some protection from the roaming neighbourhood cats. After a bit of research and using an existing concrete brick retaining wall as a base, she began moving in rocks, bark and mulch, broken terracotta pots, and native plants to create a safe haven for mokomoko/lizards.

“I did some research on plants that would provide ground cover, places for lizards to hide, and a fruiting food source for them. I also made sure the plants were native to the Kāpiti region like puhoehoe (muehlenbeckias) and mikimiki (coprosmas).” Holly tells us.

Mokomoko Manor has since spread into the upper reaches of her back yard after Holly noticed some of the skinks sunning themselves on top of the retaining wall.


Northern grass skink - Holly Neill

“I created a second storey! I covered the grass with some cardboard and woodchip ground cover, then planted more coprosmas and grasses and some creeping native fuchsias”.

Holly protects her garden with a series of Victor tunnel traps and GoodNature A20 traps, and her dog helps keep the cats away. The small nooks and crannies of the garden create lots of hiding spaces for the lizards as well. However, even with all her hard work, she didn’t see results straight away.

“Patience is key. It took over a year before I realised that some skinks had actually moved in. But it’s so worth it, I’m convinced they’ve had babies! Some of them are so tiny!”


Northern grass skink - Holly Neill

While she has only seen northern grass skinks in the garden so far, Holly plans to expand Mokomoko Manor into some shady areas of the garden and try to attract other lizard species.

Want to know more about how Holly created Mokomoko Manor and learn to create your own lizard garden at home?
Check out her detailed blog for more info on the plants and resources she used, as well as some extremely cute photos of the resident skinks!

https://www.hollyneillphotography.com/blog/2023/how-to-create-a-lizard-garden

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