forest gecko

Looks just like bark! Are your eyes sharp enough to spot them at ZEALANDIA?

English name: Forest gecko or Ngahere gecko

Māori name: Mokopirirakau

Scientific name: Hoplodactylus granulatus

NZ Status: Endemic

Conservation Status (NZTCS): At risk and declining

Found: Throughout mainland and off shore islands

Threats: Predation from mammals

Did you know? Each year geckos grow new skin and shed old skin in a process known as 'sloughing'. You may even find large pieces of sloughed skin at the bottom of their enclosures!

Forest gecko
Photo Credit: Janice McKenna

Being grey, brown or greeny-brown and having markings along their back, helps forest geckos blend into their habitat of forest and shrub. Ngahere geckos have a distinct 'V' shape between their eyes, white bands from corner of eyes to ears and slender toes in comparision to other New Zealand geckos who generally have short and broad toes. If that still doesn't help you identify Ngahere geckos, they also have yellow/orange tongues. Nocturnal but love to sunbathe, these geckos are occasionally spotted on sunny branches or tree trunks where they look like the very bark of the tree. Forest geckos like to prey on insects in a motionless fashion and also eat a well balanced diet of fruit, nectar and invertebrates. In mid-late summer 1-2 young are born and can live at least 20 years.

In Māori mythology, lizards/geckos are associated with the death of the demi-god Maui, 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 were also believed to have been spiritually associated with the god Whiro who was responsible for all things evil. Māori would invoke a lizard into a man's body to eat away his life giving organs to appease angry gods.

Geckos were abundant in prehistoric times and got by only having to rely on shedding their tails when caught by predators and camouflage. With the appearance of mammals the population declined. Forest geckos are still relatively widespread but sparse in Wellington, with only two known population strongholds, at ZEALANDIA and Otari-Wilton's Bush. 25 Ngahere geckos were rescued and released into the sanctuary between 2002 and 2015, most from outside the perimeter fence. 

Look for them: Find them snoozing in sunny spots around the sanctuary, or join a ZEALANDIA By Night tour to see them active at night.