Mokomoko find sanctuary

Published: Mon 21 Nov 2005 04:01 PM

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Auckland Green Gecko
Mokomoko find sanctuary
The Northern Gateway Alliance (NGA) and Auckland Regional Council, together with Ngati Manuhiri and Ngati Whatua, today announced their plans to release native lizards (mokomoko) removed from within the footprint of the Northern Motorway Extension (ALPURT B2) into the Open Sanctuary at Tawharanui Regional Park.
Tawharanui Open Sanctuary is designed to create a predator-free environment for native species - giving the mokomoko a much better chance of long-term survival.
The mokomoko will be released at a dawn ceremony on Friday 25 November. Representatives of Transit NZ, NGA, ARC, DoC, the Tawharanui Open Sanctuary Society Inc. (TOSSI) and Rodney District Council will attend the release.
Two species of mokomoko were uplifted from the motorway designation, the Auckland Green Gecko and the Forest Gecko. These geckos are in gradual decline on the mainland due to introduced predators and loss of habitat. The lizards have been breeding during their time in captivity, adding over 50 juveniles to the 80 adults awaiting release.
Although lizard relocation is not unique to the ALPURT B2 project, the recovery operation carried out earlier this year on the ALPURT B2 project was the largest ever attempted in New Zealand. This is also the first major gecko release on the NZ mainland that is being monitored, providing an extremely valuable opportunity to gather important information about how to manage future releases of this nature.
The lizard's relocation to Tawharanui marks a significant achievement for the NGA, ARC and iwi, who have been working together to ensure the lizards are returned to the wild in the best possible location.
"The preservation of native wildlife living within the motorway corridor is a key aspect of our environmental mitigation programme for the project," said NGA Project Director Robert Jones. "We are extremely pleased to have facilitated the lizards' relocation to Tawharanui, where they have a much better chance of long-term survival than if they were returned to their original habitat."
ARC Deputy Chair Christine Rose says the ARC is very pleased to provide a new home for the mokomoko at Tawharanui.
"This is the reason why the open sanctuary was developed, to provide a safe environment where native species can thrive. The addition of lizards to the Tawharanui Open Sanctuary also builds a more complete ecosystem and species balance within the park."
"Rodney district is one of the geckos' last strongholds but their habitats are under threat from residential and infrastructure development. This project aids their long term survival."
Whilst not endangered, native New Zealand lizard species are declining in number; they also play a significant role in Maori culture as kaitiaki (guardians) of koiwi (skeletal remains) and taonga (treasures).
As the lizards originated from Ngati Whatua ancestral land, acceptance was sought from Ngati Manuhiri before confirming with ARC that the mokomoko would be moved to the regional park, which lies within Ngati Manuhiri territory. The rekindling of the relationship between these two iwi groups has been an unexpected but welcome outcome of the translocation process.
The mokomoko will be released in two stages. Stage one involves the release of the adults captured in the wild, with the juveniles being released in the second stage early next year. This will enable the ARC to monitor the health of the adults and confirm that the release sites are suitable, as well as giving the young mokomoko born in captivity time to grow and therefore a better chance of surviving in the wild.

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