Ecology of orange-spotted geckos (Mokopirirakau “Roys Peak”) in Central Otago and Queenstown-Lakes district
- Wildlands Consultants Ltd, 764 Cumberland St, North Dunedin, Dunedin 9016, New Zealand
- 35 Brown St, Invercargill, New Zealand
- Biodiversity Group, Department of Conservation, PO Box 5244, Dunedin 9054, New Zealand
New Zealand’s mountainous environments support unique flora and fauna specially adapted to the extreme cold and harsh conditions of the alpine zone. The orange-spotted gecko (Mokopirirakau “Roys Peak”) is a rare undescribed gecko that is currently known only from the alpine zone of Otago. The species was discovered in 1998 and is only known from the Central Otago and Queenstown-Lakes districts, with populations spanning a ~3000 km2 area. We aimed to improve knowledge of orange-spotted geckos by collating existing survey data, assessing abundance and distribution at known sites, collecting biological data, comparing detection methods, and searching for new populations. Search techniques involved rock-lifting and spotlighting at night. A large population was identified at one site (Queenstown-Lakes A) where 95 orange-spotted geckos were recorded. All other populations (n = 5) appeared small with 20 or fewer geckos found, but require further surveying to better understand numbers and distribution. Females examined contemporaneously exhibited a range of reproductive conditions, suggesting production of successive progeny may take 2 or more years. Orange-spotted geckos use scree slopes, rock jumbles, and boulder fields at known sites. Threats to remaining populations may include predation by introduced mammals, habitat modification, illegal collection, and climate change. Future priorities for New Zealand’s alpine geckos include undertaking more research on how to monitor populations, evaluating reproductive cycles at different altitudes, and assessing whether predators and other factors threaten population viability. Genetic analyses could test whether populations have been recently isolated, or whether there is a long history of fragmentation.