Wildlife Research Wildlife Research Society
Ecology, management and conservation in natural and modified habitats

Estimating site occupancy and detectability of an endangered New Zealand lizard, the Otago skink (Oligosoma otagense)

Catherine M. Roughton A and Philip J. Seddon B C
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A 32B Huria Lane, Woodend, North Canterbury, New Zealand.

B Department of Zoology, University of Otago, PO Box 56, Dunedin, New Zealand.

C Corresponding author. Email: philip.seddon@stonebow.otago.ac.nz

Wildlife Research 33(3) 193-198 https://doi.org/10.1071/WR05045
Submitted: 9 May 2005  Accepted: 7 April 2006   Published: 31 May 2006


There is a need to develop appropriate monitoring methods for cryptic reptile species, such as the endangered New Zealand endemic Otago skink (Oligosoma otagense), that take into account incomplete detectability. A recently developed analytical technique was applied to presence–absence data for Otago skinks to derive robust estimates of both detection probability and site occupancy. The estimated detection probability for Otago skinks was 0.4 (s.e. 0.052), and the estimate of the proportion of the study area occupied by Otago skinks was 0.71 (s.e. 0.11). The data derived from presence–absence surveys in consistently sunny weather, with a standardised scanning and searching technique, provided a good basis for robust estimates of detection probability and of the percentage of area occupied by skinks. This survey technique could be applied to other similarly cryptic reptile species to derive rigorous estimates of site occupancy in order to track changes over time or in response to management interventions. It will be particularly appropriate where precise estimation of absolute abundance is not warranted, or where a simple index of relative abundance may be invalid due to failure of the implicit assumption of constant detectability.


We thank the following people for advice and assistance during this study: Darryl MacKenzie, Graeme Loh, Esben Kristensen, and staff of the New Zealand Department of Conservation working at Macraes Flat. Larissa Bailey, Phil Bishop, Henrik Moller, James Reardon and two anonymous referees provided valuable comments on earlier drafts. Karina Holmes kindly provided a map of the study area. This work was supported by a University of Otago Research Grant to PS. CR was partially funded by the New Zealand Department of Conservation Science Advice Fund.


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