Date: 17 November 2020
Ninety native geckos were released on Motutapu Island in the Hauraki Gulf, marking the start of an ambitious 10-year monitoring programme by Massey University and the Department of Conservation (DOC).
It's the first time the kawekaweau/Duvaucel's gecko are being released on the pest free sanctuary, says DOC Senior Biodiversity Ranger, David Wilson. The geckos were originally from Korapuku Island and have been bred for release by Massey University.
David Wilson says, "Motutapu is suitable habitat for the gecko to thrive because of the ongoing work between DOC and our treaty partner Ngāi Tai ki Tamaki to keep Motutapu a pest-free sanctuary. The geckos will join other native and protected species on Motutapu including the takahē and tūturuata/shore plover."
Duvaucel's gecko were once widespread throughout Aotearoa but are now restricted to 36 offshore islands because of the impact of predators and humans.
Ngāi Tai ki Tāmaki leader Billy Brown notes "The kawekaweau are a taonga species for our people. They are resilient and have been around a lot longer than tangata whenua in Aotearoa."
A second release of the geckos is planned for December at Otata Island, also in the Hauraki Gulf.
The project is being led by Massey University wildlife biologist Dr Manuela Barry who says "Reintroducing Duvaucel's geckos to these pest free island sites will create two new self-sustaining populations and extend their current range.
"This is a research-focussed ten-year monitoring programme, and we hope to gather long-term data on establishment success and the resilience of Duvaucel's gecko populations in different ecological settings."
This programme links into Dr Manuela Barry's wider research programme on the reintroduction biology of Duvaucel's geckos at various sites within the Hauraki Gulf.
"The reintroductions will also help achieve the islands' ecosystem restoration goals by reestablishing a species that once lived there."
Dr Barry says "I'd like to acknowledge and recognise the joint efforts that have gone into this collaborative project.
"The two reintroductions are made possible by funding from the Motutapu Restoration Trust (MRT) and the Auckland Zoo Conservation Fund (Otata). Invaluable logistic and on-ground support is provided by Ngāi Tai ki Tāmaki, the Department of Conservation (Motutapu) and the Neureuter Family (Otata)."
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