Jewelled geckos to return to Alexandra

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A locally extinct lizard species will be introduced into Alexandra’s Mokomoko Dryland Sanctuary next year.

The Central Otago Ecological Trust has been granted a permit through the Department of Conservation to translocate jewelled geckos from Lammermoor to Alexandra in February or March.

Spokesman Grant Norbury said about 50 geckos would be released into the sanctuary.

“It’s quite a robust population up in the Lammermoors.

“We’ve got a consultant who’s an absolute expert on jewelled geckos and he’s consulting through our trust.

“He knows the population really well and he thinks that the Lammermoor population is big enough and widespread enough to sustain that sort of harvest.”

Once the geckos had been released, the trust would start by monitoring the population at least once a week, he said.

“The critical period is initially to make sure animals are OK, then it becomes important to know whether we’re getting new recruits, because new recruits means they’re establishing well, they’re feeding, they’re mating, they’re surviving.

“Getting new recruits is a big indicator of success.”

Monitoring would involve “legs on the ground and people armed with cameras”, he said.

Photographing the geckos provided a non-invasive way of tracking population increases, he said.

It would be easy to identify individual lizards because of the unique markings.

“It’s a really good method – we’re lucky because the animals have different patterns so we won’t have to mark them as such.

“It’s a completely remote way of measuring their abundance.

“They’re locally extinct in the inland basin now, so we’ll be bringing it back into the area.

“That’ll be really exciting.”