Biosecurity of exotic reptiles and amphibians in New Zealand: building upon Tony Whitaker's legacy

D G Chapple, J Knegtmans, H Kikillus, D van Winkel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Exotic reptile and amphibian species have the potential to have ecological or economic impacts in New Zealand. Tony Whitaker, the consultant herpetologist for the New Zealand biosecurity agency from 2000 to 2014, was instrumental in developing and maintaining a database of exotic reptiles and amphibians intercepted at the border, completing risk assessments for the exotic herpetofauna species present in the domestic pet trade, and was involved in several compliance investigations for species illegally imported into New Zealand. These key contributions laid the foundation for the development of New Zealand's biosecurity protocols for exotic herpetofauna. Here we provide an overview of Tony's contributions in these three areas and present a detailed summary of the exotic amphibian and reptile species intercepted at the New Zealand border (1852 interceptions involving 2237 individuals from 201 different species). Sea transport routes originating from Australia, southeastern Asia and the Pacific region are the major source of exotic herpetofauna species arriving at New Zealand's borders. Stowaway individuals generally arrive alone, are alive when detected and are intercepted at the border. Lizards, and geckos in particular, constitute the majority of exotic herpetofauna species being accidentally imported into New Zealand. These results suggest that substantially more amphibian and reptile species are being moved around the world via humanassisted dispersal than previously recognised, and that most of these stowaways may be overlooked in other jurisdictions in the world that lack comprehensive biosecurity programmes. The database of exotic amphibian and reptile species will enable a range of future studies on the trade pathways and transport vectors through which they arrive in New Zealand, and the traits associated with successful herpetofauna stowaways.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)66-84
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of the Royal Society of New Zealand
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Amphibian
  • Biosecurity
  • Frog
  • Incursion
  • Interception
  • Lizard
  • New Zealand
  • Propagule pressure
  • Reptile
  • Snake

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