Close-up of water dragon
Image: Michael Kean | ©

Archived content: This media release was accurate on the date of publication. 


DOC is asking the public to report any recent sightings of water dragons in Papaitonga Scenic Reserve, near Levin.

Date:  22 March 2018

Water dragon.
The Australian water dragon spotted at Lake Waiwiri in January
Image: Roy Hamilton ©

Water dragons are not native to New Zealand and are considered a threat to local wildlife.

One Australian water dragon (Physignathus lesuerii) was removed from Papaitonga Scenic Reserve in May 2017, but it now seems it was not alone.

A second one was photographed in the same reserve in January 2018.

“We are concerned about this second water dragon,” says Sue Moore, Senior Biodiversity Ranger for DOC Manawatu.

“We have contracted a lizard expert to catch and remove this water dragon from the reserve. But in warm weather, reptiles can cover large areas rapidly, so we welcome any additional information the public may have to help track it.”

“If you have seen a water dragon in Papaitonga Scenic Reserve or have any information that could help us, we’d like to hear from you,” says Ms. Moore.

Contact DOC Manawatu on +64 6 350 9700 or email with your information.

If you are reporting a sighting, please provide a description of what you saw and say where and when. Include photos and/or a GPS location if possible. Do not attempt to catch it.

It is not known whether the water dragons escaped from captivity or were intentionally released.

Either way it’s a problem, says Ms. Moore.

“A pet in the wild is a pest. The water dragons may prey on native Powelliphanta snails found in the reserve or spread diseases to native lizards.”

“It’s not good for the water dragons either. Pets are usually not equipped to survive in the wild.

“The first water dragon removed from Papaitonga Scenic Reserve was in poor condition and had rat bites on its tail.”

Pet owners can help by keeping pets safe and secure at home. Do not release them; if you can no longer look after them, find someone else who can.

Background information

Media release 24 May 2017: Australian water dragon captured


Kelly Hancock, Community Ranger
Phone: +64 6 350 9670

Back to top