Wellington green gecko

The brightest, fluorescent, green geckos in ZEALANDIA. Often on display!  

English name: Wellington green gecko/Barking gecko

Māori  name: Moko kakariki

Scientific name: Naultinus elegans punctatus

NZ Status: Endemic (only found in NZ)

Conservation Status (NZTCS): At risk and declining

Found: Lower North Island

Threats: Predation

Did you know? When they are threatened they make a defensive barking call, hence the name

Wellington green gecko
Photo Credit: Chris Helliwell

Barking geckos are members of the Gekkonidae family, the biggest family of geckos.  They are only found in the lower North Island and are related to another sub-species of Auckland green geckos found in northern North Island. The Welliington green geckos are much larger and have yellow soled feet instead of grey green.

These geckos are active in daytime and are often found in forest and shrub. Unlike other geckos, they can be aggressive and vocal when threatened. The minute 'hairs' called setae on gecko toes give them imense grip on completly smooth surfaces like glass. Wellington green geckos can live for more than 45 years, twice the length of other geckos in the sanctuary. NZ geckos play a vital role in plant pollunation (especially flax and pohutukawa) and spread seeds by eating fruit and primarily feed on insects. They love to sunbathe and are most active at 31 celsisus.

There were numerous amounts of geckos before humans arrived. The introduction of mammals had a huge impact on gecko numbers with two species instinct. Poaching and habitat destruction have also had a role in their decline.

In Māori mythology, lizards/geckos are associated with the death of the demi-god Mau  i, who by turning into a lizard attempted to stop death by invading the goddess of death; Hine-nui-te-po. The laughter of birds woke Hine and she crushed him to death which brought mortality to humans. Lizards/Geckos are also connected to the god Whiro, who represented all the evil on Earth and brought misfortune to tribe. Māori would invoke a lizard into a man's body to eat away his life giving organs to appease angry gods.

Captive-bred barking geckos have been on display in Zealandia since 2010 as a part of a programme with the Department of Conservation and to raise awareness. They are held in display for a year until they are big enough to transfer to Matiu-Somes and Mana Island. Wild barking geckos are extremely rare in the sanctuary with only one confirmed sighting in 2010 after a male was transferred from outside the fence in 2008.