Two German nationals are facing wildlife and theft charges following a joint operation involving the Department of Conservation, Police, and Customs.
Four protected jewelled geckos were recovered when the pair were arrested in Otago yesterday.
The arrests follow a surveillance operation on Otago Peninsula and involved close co-operation between DOC staff, police, New Zealand Customs Service, the Wildlife Enforcement Group, and members of the public.
DOC’s Coastal Otago Area Manager Robin Thomas said DOC is extremely grateful for the help it has received from both the public and other enforcement agencies throughout this operation.
"Jewelled gecko are threatened with extinction and they are fully protected . We are determined to protect the remaining populations of these unique lizards and we keep a very close eye on their welfare."
The two men appeared in Court in Dunedin yesterday and have been remanded in custody to appear again on Friday 11 March 2011.
Reuben Williams, +64 4 471 3139 or 027 257 2216
The jewelled gecko/moko-kākāriki (Naultinus gemmeus) is unique to New Zealand and fully protected. The total population, estimated to be about 5000, is in decline and limited to three main areas in Otago and Canterbury.
DOC actively manages the known lizard population groups with strong community support through the ‘Jewelled Gecko/ Moko-kākāriki Management Plan’. Threats include animal pests, habitat loss and theft.
The penalties for smuggling wildlife range up to six months in prison or fines of $100 000. Two German tourists were last year imprisoned for three and four months respectively after they were found guilty of attempting to smuggle jewelled geckos out of New Zealand.