Once plentiful in our local mainland forests, the stunning but inconspicuous Northland green gecko (Naultinus grayii) is now on a quiet track to oblivion. As this taonga species declines out of sight, the pest-free islands of Ipipiri offer a unique safe haven to help protect their future.
These large and beautifully patterned geckos are characterised by their bright to pale green upper surfaces, which in some individuals are broken up by white or yellowish markings. These markings are often highlighted by brilliant golden edging, although grey or black edging is not atypical either.
Their natural population is within Te Tai Tokerau, from the Hokianga Harbour across to the Bay of Islands, up towards the southern regions of the Houhora Harbour. Sadly, the Northland green gecko is now listed in the most recent threat classification as ‘At Risk – Declining’, due to a mix of land development/clearance of habitat, and predation by mammalian predators.
As the focus of our next reintroduction to Ipipiri, we’ve been working hard planning and researching how to best progress. There is often more to a reintroduction than first meets the eye.
A key challenge of this reintroduction is ensuring we translocate the correct green gecko species to Ipipiri. The southern population boundary of the Northland green gecko, and the northern boundary of their cousin, the elegant green gecko (Naultinus elegans elegans), is currently unknown.
As such, a survey is now underway to ensure we can correctly identify populations of the Northern green gecko. Initially the survey is using distinguishing physical characters, such as tongue colour, body size, and flattened snout scales to determine which green gecko species is being found. Molecular analyses to accurately determine populations of the Northland and elegant species may also be used to help define boundaries.
To further complicate this reintroduction, we believe that there is no single large population where we could collect enough geckos to help start new island populations. As such, we will probably have to source the geckos across several fragmented locations. Once more is understood from the survey, we will request to collect Northland green geckos from suitable sites. To ensure we do not impact any of the existing source populations, we will only collect a small number of geckos from each site.
The Northland green gecko reintroduction is our most complex and challenging to date. We have been astounded by the support provided to help make it a reality.
These early research and planning stages of our reintroductions take a lot of work, and are often the hardest part of the process for us to fund. This is why we are especially thankful to Topflite for recognising the importance of this reintroduction, and the detailed work required to make it happen.
The generous donations provided by Topflite through their Soar Initiative, which aims to help Aotearoa’s unique nature to soar ahead, have been vital in enabling us to get this far.
We are excited to start seeing some of the survey outcomes, and hope to be in a better position to identify suitable source population in the next few months.
All going to plan for this multi-year reintroduction, we hope to be able to start releasing geckos onto the islands by early next year, though there are many steps to go through between now and then, and much work to be done.
This translocation of the Northland green gecko is both extremely important for the future prospects of the species, and an exciting reintroduction for the ecosystems of Ipipiri.
Bringing the Northland green gecko back to Ipipiri will still require significant further funding. If you are in a position to help safeguard the future of this local taonga, please consider making a donation to the project using the form below. All contributions made through this form will be used directly for the reintroduction of the green gecko.
Alternatively, please feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss how you could help make this special translocation happen.