A rare species of lizard has been spotted at Parry Kauri Park in Warkworth.
It is believed to be the first time the Forest gecko has been seen at the park and conservationists are hailing it as a triumph of predator-control efforts.
The lizard was seen by Warkworth resident Nola Kenny during one of her regular walks through the park.
Nola says she has always had a fascination with lizards and had a hunch that this was a rare one.
She hurried back to her car to get her mobile phone to take a photograph, all the while desperately hoping the gecko would remain where it was.
Forest geckos are extremely well camouflaged and sightings are unusual.
Fortunately, the gecko did not move and Nola was able to get some photos.
She later showed the pictures to Ray Jensen of the The Kauri and Native Bushmen’s Association, whose volunteers are active in eliminating predators at the park.
The pictures were then passed on to Thelma Wilson, the Department of Conservation’s senior bio-diversity ranger based in Warkworth, who identified the creature as a Forest gecko.
Thelma says it’s an exciting find and indicates predator numbers must be low, since reptiles are the first to vanish from forests when predators are in abundance.
Geckos are vulnerable to rats, cats, stoats, weasels and ferrets.
Thelma declined to disclose where exactly the gecko was found in the park as their scarcity means they are prone to being stolen and traded illegally.
The gecko has not been sighted since Nola found it.
Ray Jensen says he is hugely encouraged that the Bushmen’s efforts to eliminate predators is paying off and the sighting is encouraging them to step up their efforts to ensure preservation of the gecko population.
He says that in addition to geckos, the kauri snail population in the park has increased a 100-fold, which he also attributes to the successful war against predators.
Auckland Council has also taken an interest in the gecko sighting and will supply plans to the bushmen showing how their predator-control efforts can be enhanced even further.