Lizard study field trip yeilds results.
MEACT was recently invited to help Auckland Council Biodiversity staff on their field trip up Muriwai Beach, the last visit of a three-year study into the lizard population in the sand dune country in Council’s Five-Mile Strip Reserve – Muriwai Regional Park.
Measuring a Gecko
We chose a beautiful warm sunny Muriwai autumn day which meant that the lizards were more likely to be active than they would be in colder weather.
We found two specimens of the rare Muriwai gecko and one Shore skink. There has been a lot of local media attention given to our Muriwai gecko in recent years because of its threatened status and that fact that is confined entirely to our Muriwai area. In 2019 a MEACT member found one in our Muriwai urban area, a first ever sighting in the town, since then the good news is that there have been several other sightings of it in our urban area. No doubt our Pest Free Muriwai project has contributed to this happening and so we have much to be proud of with this result.
But the Shore skink, which is officially rated as non-threatened status in New Zealand and is widely distributed, just might be equally as 'special' as our Muriwai gecko. Officially, the Shore skink’s status is listed as non-threatened. It is found almost entirely on the east coast of the North Island from the Bay of Plenty up to Cape Reinga. It is also official that the populations are fast declining through pressure from coastal land development and under attack from predators moving into the areas. Predators such as feral cats, stoats, weasels, rats and mice.
On the west coast however, the Shore skink populations are much smaller and very isolated, just a few spots and Muriwai Beach is one of the more isolated of them.
There is a good chance that our small population, with its isolation, is in fact a species that is separate from its cousin the Shore skink. The measurements and photographs we took will go towards proving whether this is true or not. To find out more about this interesting question, this is a link to the DOC website – their Threatened Species Recovery Plan no. 48; https://www.doc.govt.nz/Documents/science-and-technical/TSRP48.pdf
Whilst our very rare Muriwai gecko has been sighted in our urban areas over the last couple of years, you are more likely to come across this little fellow living in our community, the Forest gecko, (or Mokopirirakau granulatus). It is not rare, but it is declining in numbers and has an official classification of "threatened", so we have to look after it.
This one was photographed just lately, sunning itself on Gerry Henley's driveway in Oaia Road. Gerry was delighted with the visit, perhaps celebrating MEACT's tenth anniversary - Gerry of course is one of MEACT's founding trustees