Gecko conservation success

Two of the geckos making a new home in Riccarton Bush.

Two of the geckos making a new home in Riccarton Bush.

In March, the first geckos retrieved from the bluffs above Rāpaki after the Christchurch earthquake, were released into their new home at Riccarton Bush.

Te Hapū o Ngāti Wheke, represented by Yvette Couch-Lewis, formally handed over the kaitiakitanga of the gecko from her rohe in the Port Hills to that of Ngāi Tūāhuriri, represented by Te Marino Lenihan.

Back in 2014, when post-earthquake consultation on reopening the Sumner Road began with Te Hapu o Ngāti Wheke, Marieke Lettink, guardian of the geckos and Yvette Couch-Lewis, friend of the geckos, began discussions with the Christchurch City Council to retrieve 200 or more gecko from the Crater Rim bluffs above Sumner Road. The plan was to release them into a new home in the city.

There are now 209 geckos living in Riccarton Bush. They were released in three big vine-covered trees, all within a week of the first release. Nineteen were fitted with transmitters and Marieke is continuing to monitor their movements – one or two have been very adventurous (gecko don’t normally move far), and they have travelled distances of 20-30m between checks.

All of the animals released by Yvette and Te Marino in the first tree have stayed there, suggesting that they are happy and settled – in more scientific terms their needs for food, shelter and companionship are being met.

“This project has gathered a huge (and continuing) amount of public interest and it was great to see other people’s aroha for these animals. It was a very heart-felt send-off and I want to thank both Yvette and Te Marino for being there on the day,” says Marieke.