The University of Otago researchers added another piece to the puzzle about how best to transport New Zealand lizards for conservation purposes – restricting them.
In a paper just published in New Zealand Journal of Ecology, Department of Zoology researchers explained how they transported 19 barking geckos to Mana Island, using the liberation method – placing them in a 100-square-meter pen for three months until they become accustomed to the site and hope to form a breeding community.
It was the first time that such a method had been used with the species and the researchers found it worked well. The use of geckos decreased over time, indicating the creation of the region.
Co-author Dr Joe Monks, an honorary Otago research fellow and advisor to the Department of Conservation Sciences, says that reptile and amphibian relocations have been, historically and globally, remarkably unsuccessful. However, the recent success of launching bejeweled geckos has prompted them to try different species.
“By understanding the behavioral response of a gecko barking to issuing a decree, this research helps us understand the best techniques that help a new group of geckos establish after moving to a new location,” she says.
The bark gecko is one of the nine species of green geckos, moko-kākāriki, that live only in Aotearoa New Zealand. They are considered “vulnerable – declining” under the New Zealand Threat Classification System due to ongoing projected declines from habitat destruction and predation by introduced mammals.
Many green gecko populations have experienced a decline in numbers and locations due to predators, habitat modification, and poaching for illegal trade, but there is little research on their habitat.
“The protection of the bark gecko and other reptiles of Otiarwa is important in its own right and for the Moors in the ecosystems in which it plays an important role as pollinators and seed derivatives as well as being an invertebrate predator and prey to large animals,” says Dr. Monks.
There is potential to work with a large group of animals as initial dispersion after transition could be detrimental to the establishment of the species. It was done for birds and lizards in Aotearoa.
The printed version reduces area usage by bark geckos (Naultinus punctatus)
Tom B Flynn Plummer and Joan M. Monks
New Zealand Journal of Ecology