Introduction

Report any sightings of geckos in the alpine zone of South Island mountains.

We are very keen to learn of any sightings of geckos in the alpine zone of South Island mountains – the area above the tree and shrub zones.

Alpine geckos

The geckos we are particularly interested in have only recently been discovered. They are relatives of the forest gecko.

While forest geckos live in trees and shrubs and are quite common in the west and north of the South Island (and in the North Island), these newly discovered geckos occupy a very different habitat – alpine rock bluffs, boulder piles and screes above 1000 m.

These alpine geckos seem to be extremely rare. They are very variable in colour and pattern, from drab brownish grey to bold herringbone and chevron patterns, to the whole animal being virtually covered in blotches of orange and yellow. All have bright orange colouring inside the mouth, which distinguishes them from the more common varieties of gecko.

There are two kinds of lizard in New Zealand – geckos and skinks. Geckos, as seen in these photographs, have broad heads with large bulging eyes, definite necks, and soft, velvety-looking skin which is covered in very small, granular scales. Skinks are more slender with narrow heads and small eyes, a narrow neck which is nearly as wide as the head, and have smooth, shiny, fish-like scales on the surface of the skin.

We would like to know about any unusual sightings of geckos from the mountains.

Forest gecko, close up of head, Taranaki. Image: B W Thomas.
Forest gecko, close up of head, Taranaki

Alpine geckos. Photo: T. Jewell, Kathmandu.
DOC is particularly interested in sightings of alpine geckos

We would like assistance from alpine climbers and trampers particularly in these areas:

What we're interested to know

If you have seen a gecko in the alpine zone, we are keen to know as much as possible about it:

  • When you saw it
  • Where you saw it – place name, description of where it was, the altitude, and a map grid reference if possible
  • Details of the site – aspect, amount of rock, type and amount of vegetation
  • How you found it, and what it was doing at the time 
  • Its length
  • Its colour
  • A photograph of the gecko, and the area where you found it

Where to send information

Rod Hitchmough
Science Advisor
Department of Conservation
National Office
PO Box 10 420, Wellington 6143

Email: rhitchmough@doc.govt.nz

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