What’s In Your Garden: Moko Kākāriki

by Helen Cordery

Our birds get a lot of press at Pūkaha, but it’s time to shine a light on some of the other creatures calling this forest home. Introducing the moko kākāriki (Naultinus punctatus), also known as the Wellington green gecko. This beautiful green reptile lives wild in our forest and can often be found scuttling along the forest floor or basking in the rocks.

Super rare native

The moko kākāriki is endemic to New Zealand and can only be found in the southern half of New Zealand (hence its name). You will recognise it for its vivid green colour with either white, yellow or pale green markings on its back. If you’re lucky, you may even spot its bright blue mouth when it yawns! You’d have to be pretty lucky these days, unfortunately, because habitat destruction and introduced pests have put it in gradual decline.

Geckos are amazing

Did you know that New Zealand geckos give birth to live young? This makes them super special reptiles, combined with the fact that only geckos can vocalise (have you heard of a ‘barking’ gecko?).

Geckos also have teeny tiny hairs on their feet helping them to ‘stick’ which is why you might find them hanging in precarious-looking places, too!

Show the moko kākāriki some love

By planting natives in your garden! Moko kākāriki love to nibble on coprosma berries, a tasty treat for geckos and a beautiful addition to any New Zealand garden. Other things you can do include:

  • Planting native grasses for geckos to hide or hunt for insects in
  • Keep on top of introduced pests like mice and rats by placing (and checking) traps
  • Pop a bell on your cat! Even though we love cats too, they are top predators on the food chain and actually like to hunt New Zealand’s more vulnerable species – including moko kākāriki
  • Record your sightings on places like INaturalist NZ or let DOC know. The ultimate goal is to have moko kākāriki and other natives running wild and free across the country including in your back yard!

Find it for yourself

Have you ever come across the barking gecko? Maybe you can try following one of the suggestions above, but don’t forget to let us know how you get on! Come and find out more about geckos and other reptiles at Pūkaha on a Guided Tour (find our more here). Remember: we are all forest guardians!