For the first time in a century, the Duvaucel’s gecko can now be found in mainland New Zealand thanks to a successful reintroduction of the species into Tāwharanui Open Sanctuary.
Auckland Council’s Regional Park Rangers and Biodiversity team worked with Massey University, volunteers from Tāwharanui Open Sanctuary Society Inc. (TOSSI), Ngāti Manuhiri and other iwi to release the geckos into the sanctuary.
Auckland Council’s Open Sanctuary Senior Ranger, Matt Maitland, says his team is proud to have been part of this historic moment.
“Tāwharanui Open Sanctuary provides a safe home for threatened native wildlife. To have the Duvaucel’s gecko here for its reintroduction to mainland New Zealand for the first time in almost 100 years is a real honour.”
A joint effort
The gecko release is part of a long-term research programme, led by Dr Manuela Barry from Massey University. Predators drove the geckos to extinction on the mainland and they have only survived on offshore islands. The programme will be monitoring the gecko population to see how they fare at the sanctuary.
Auckland Council’s Biodiversity Manager Rachel Kelleher has praised those involved in this crucial conservation work.
“A huge amount of work has gone into this nationally important conservation project. Our thanks go to all the volunteers at Tāwharanui Open Sanctuary Society Inc. (TOSSI), Massey University, Ngāti Manuhiri and other iwi.”
“TOSSI volunteers are delighted to welcome these beautiful geckos back to a protected environment. This is a wonderful reward for years of hard work,” says TOSSI Chair Alison Stanes.
The Duvaucel’s gecko is the largest surviving species of gecko in New Zealand, growing to up to 300mm in length. Despite their size, they are vulnerable to predators, particularly at a young age, and it was predation that caused their mainland extinction.
Tāwharanui Open Sanctuary is predator free apart from mice. Scientists will study the effect of mice on the native gecko population over time. This will also indicate the impact mice could have if they are introduced to offshore islands.
Dr Barry says, “Massey University researchers and TOSSI volunteers will monitor these geckos’ success in the presence of mice for the next decade. Results will inform the future release of this and similarly vulnerable species to other mainland sanctuaries.”
The geckos are from a Massey University research facility where they have been used to establish other populations on other islands. They were originally sourced from the Mercury Islands off the Coromandel.