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Skink on brink of extinction has its only habitat damaged by four-wheel drive vandals
Conservationists fear a community of rare skinks found only at a single site on the West Coast may have been decimated after it was ruined by people in four-wheel drive vehicles.
The Alborns skink is part of the speckled skink family and endemic to a single habitat near Reefton, close to Big River, which is off-limit to vehicles.
Monitoring since 2015 has detected just 17 individuals, meaning the population is considered extremely vulnerable to extinction.
Department of Conservation senior ranger Sam Symonds said four-wheel drivers had recently turned part of the site into a mud hole and driven over skink monitoring pit covers, which could have crushed and killed skinks.
“The damage is thought to be related to an ongoing issue of vandalism in the area, with continued destruction of assets and vegetation at the Big River Hut and Mine site,” he said.
DOC has spent around $20,000 each year repairing damage from what is thought to be just a few people.
“We’d like to stop them,” Symonds said.
“As well as being really concerning for our vulnerable skink population, it’s such a waste of resources and a disappointment for other people who like to use this site, not to mention the public of New Zealand who are paying unnecessarily for damage to be repaired.”
The vandals pulled up fences, ripped up track, destroyed grassed areas, intimidated hut users and done motorbike burnouts inside the hut, as well as leaving rubbish, cutting down trees, pulling down gates and smashing posts.