A jewelled gecko – moko kākāriki has returned to Otago after being smuggled from its Otago Peninsula home into Germany three years ago.
The gecko was officially welcomed to its new home at Otago Museum by Te Rūnanga o Ōtākou, Museum staff, the Department of Conservation (DOC), Setpoint Solutions and other parties involved in its repatriation.
This gecko has had a long journey from New Zealand to Germany and back again. After being repatriated, the gecko was cared for at Wellington Zoo’s The Nest Te Kōhanga, where it was nursed back to health by the zoo’s expert team of veterinarians. The gecko will live out the rest of his life at the Museum.
Geoff Owen, DOC former National Compliance Manager, now Wakatipu Operations Manager, said, “Bringing the gecko home was just the right thing to do, by him and by us as a people, but because he may have been exposed to unknown biosecurity threats overseas he cannot be returned to the wild safely.”
“Our flora and fauna are here to be admired and enjoyed. But his story serves to remind us we’re not immune to international wildlife smuggling,” Mr Owen said.
Te Rūnanga o Ōtākou representative Hoani Langsbury said jewelled geckos are culturally significant for the tangata whenua of Otago because they are considered a taoka (treasure).
“As kaitiaki of the fauna on Otago Peninsula, we have a strong connection with these animals so it is important to us this gecko is returned to Otago,” Mr Langsbury said.
Otago Museum Director Ian Griffin said, “We are honoured that, because this well-travelled gecko can’t return to its true home on the Otago Peninsula, Te Rūnanga o Ōtākou and DOC have asked us to provide a home away from home where it can enjoy a safe and secure future. We hope all visitors to the Museum enjoy the chance to learn about one of the most extraordinary species in this part of the world.”
The public can now view the gecko in his new purpose-built terrarium on the Museum’s Atrium Level 1, thanks to the support of Setpoint Solutions. Museum visitors can also learn about its lifestyle and cultural significance to local iwi in a daily gallery talk.
Jewelled geckos are one of New Zealand’s most beautiful, vulnerable species, with their velvety-looking bright green skin and striking markings. Photo: James Reardon
The smuggled jewelled geckos being prepared for return from Cologne Zoo earlier this year