The most recent species of gecko to be ‘described’ in New Zealand has been officially named.
Local iwi, Ngāti Whātua o Kaipara has gifted the name Korowai gecko (Woodworthia korowai) to the endemic new species in a paper published in the scientific journal Zootaxa.
This ingoa (name) references the south Kaipara Peninsula / Te Korowai o Te Tonga, where the moko (gecko) is found and the markings which cloak its tuarā (back).
Rediscovered nearly a decade ago, the species is one of just two new residents to reside in duneland habitat behind popular Muriwai Beach.
Auckland Council’s General Manager Environmental Services, Rachel Kelleher says very little is known about the Korowai gecko whose conservation status is listed as nationally – vulnerable.
“It is rare to have a new species on our doorstep and with a population of fewer than 200 individuals, it becomes our responsibility to safeguard these vulnerable geckos,” she said.
“Since rediscovering them in 2014, Auckland Council has been leading research to try to learn more about the animal, understand its distribution, its population size and its habitat preferences to determine the best conservation management actions and the priority they are given.”
The Council has just completed a five-year monitoring programme of the new species led by Dylan van Winkel of Babbage Consultants’ Bioresearches team.
“The survey has been invaluable in giving us insights into the status of this new species,” said Ms Kelleher.
“This gecko is one of the most geographically challenged, occupying an area of less than 500 km2 within Muriwai Regional Park.
“The popularity and recreational use of the park’s dune system threatens the gecko’s habitat. When you have 4 wheel drives tearing through the dunes and beachgoers clambering over them, these creatures are exposed and at risk.
“We hope the public will recognise the value of the coastal environment and the unique and sensitive duneland of Te Oneone Rangatira / Muriwai Beach, be mindful of their behaviour and encourage conservation efforts to protect this newly described species and its habitat.”
As part of the study, Council researchers have also been trying to learn more about the animal pests the gecko shares its environment with.
The project has been funded by general and natural environment targeted rates with support from Auckland Zoo.