Here is more proof that what’s happening at Tawharanui is working and it is making this Regional Park one of the most successful conservation projects in the country. Imagine what it will feel like when the whole country looks like this! The proof is yet another translocation. This time it’s Duvaucel’s geckos – 80 of them, in the first official relocation to the mainland of these very special creatures. Duvaucel’s are New Zealand’s largest gecko and one of the world’s largest geckos.
The name is a curiosity of early species identification. Sent to England for classification in the early 1800s, the specimen was mislaid in a British Museum cupboard for some time. When the jar was finally pulled out, it was thought that the pickled creature inside had originated in India and was thus named Duvaucel’s after a Frenchman, Alfred Duvaucel (1793-1825) who was an explorer in India at the time. The error was later discovered but the name stuck.
Our Duvaucel’s geckos have come from a captive breeding programme at Massey University, Albany, under the expert eye of Dr Manuela Barry. She and her team, along with TOSSI volunteers, will monitor these lizards for an extended period of time to check how they cope with mice. This research is aimed at helping with future translocations to other sites.
Tawharanui is slowly building up its reptile fauna. It is now home to Duvaucel’s, Auckland green (Elegans) and forest geckos. Our skink species include shore, copper, and ornate, with more expected soon. A reptile restoration plan for Tawharanui has been prepared and approved. Duvaucel’s geckos were the first of the identified absent species to be reintroduced. We will work with partners on restoring the reptile community of the open sanctuary over time. Our lizards are all endemic, meaning they live only here in NZ. Once they would have existed over large areas of the country but their habitat has been hugely reduced by the usual factors – mammalian predators and habitat loss. The rainbow skink, an egg-laying lizard that has arrived here from Australia, is the one that we see in our gardens during the day, in ever increasing numbers. This is often called the plague skink and does not carry the same level of protection as our endemic species.
You may not see these reptiles when you venture around the park because they are well camouflaged, have a nocturnal lifestyle and are generally only seen in the day when basking to gather energy from the sun. Geckos are also important for pollination and some seed dispersal for native plants. Though they are very hard to find, even for the expert, it is satisfying to know that they are back here in the environment, as they used to be, before we humans altered things so much. We have a duty to subsequent generations to put things back the way they were as much as possible, so that people might one day enjoy seeing these very special creatures in their natural environment.