Nearly 60 protected lizards - most of them dead - have been found stuffed in a discarded lunchbox at the Christchurch Botanic Gardens.
DOC spokesperson Nicola Toki said staff were called to the gardens last Friday after two international tourists found the container in the bamboo area and handed it to staff.
On closer inspection, 58 lizards were discovered in the small lunch container wrapped with duct tape.
Only four were still alive and were now being looked after, Ms Toki said.
The lizards were still being identified but were thought to include spotted McCann's lizards, southern grass skinks, Waitaha and jewelled geckos.
All are fully protected and most are threatened or at risk.
Ms Tiki said the lizards were found in horrific conditions and staff needed the public's help to find out who put them there.