By Rachel Brown, Partnerships Ranger, Christchurch
Last November Christchurch City Council applied to DOC for permission to move up to 200 Canterbury geckos from the Crater Rim bluffs above Sumner Road to a new home in Riccarton Bush.
Last month, DOC staff were there to see them released into their new home.
Sumner Road was closed after the Canterbury earthquakes and is due to be reopened after works are completed. The Council opted to relocate the geckos knowing that the earthworks would destroy the geckos’ natural habitat.
Any group wishing to collect protected wildlife (as defined under the Wildlife Act 1953) and release it into the wild at another location is required to obtain a permit from DOC.
The permit was granted and allowed for up to 200 geckos to be retrieved by abseil technicians, placed in individual containers before being transferred to Riccarton Bush in batches.
On the first release day, Te Hapū o Ngāti Wheke formally handed over the kaitiakitanga (guardianship) of the gecko from their rohe (area) in the Port Hills to that of Ngāi Tūāhuriri, whose rohe includes Riccarton Bush in Christchurch City.
Riccarton Bush was chosen because it has 7.8 hectares of established forest surrounded by a state-of-the-art pest and mammal-proof fence that keeps out predators.
It may seem strange to move geckos from rock to bush, but before humans arrived in Canterbury, many geckos would have lived in the forest canopy.
We no longer have geckos in our bush due to predators, this is why we are excited about setting up this new population.
One of the requirements of the DOC-issued permit was for the geckos to be monitored after their release. 20 of the geckos will be fitted with radio transmitters to allow researchers studying them to monitor their movements.
With any luck, this project will see a new thriving population of the Canterbury gecko take hold in Riccarton Bush.