Lizards fitted with radio backpacks
Forget lounge lizards; this lot are packed and ready to travel.
Nine native reptiles sporting tiny backpacks have been released on Mana Island, near Porirua, after being moved from their home environment.
The ngahere geckos have been fitted with radio transmitters weighing 0.7gms in a bid to shed light on just how far they journey when transferred to new homes.
Part of a three-year translocation programme from a Wellington quarry, the lizards, will help scientists determine what sort of release method worked best when it came to settling into a new environment.
It was a delicate process taping the transmitters to the backs of the tiny creatures, Department of Conservation science advisor Jo Monks said.
‘‘We need to work quickly to avoid stress but also take time to ensure the fit is right, so it won’t impede the animal’s movements.’’
The new arrivals will be released alongside another nine lizards previously transferred and housed on the island in a large open pen – a method termed a ‘soft-release’.
Monks said research on other species showed that previously penned animals don’t travel far once the pen is removed compared to new arrivals which could disperse widely.
‘‘Ideally we want them to stick together. Otherwise, some individuals may disperse too far and be unable to find each other again and contribute to a breeding population.’’
So far, a soft release had proved to be a much more successful strategy for species like jewelled geckos, and the Mana Island trial would show whether it would be useful for other native reptiles, she said.
A total of 49 ngahere geckos had been transferred to the pest- free island as part of a three-year project to rehome them from Wellington’s Belmont Quarry, being developed by Fletcher Building.
New Zealand has more than 110 species of geckos and skinks – almost half of which are threatened – and Mana Island boasts eleven species of native lizards.
Classed as at at-risk species, the ngahere geckos are found in older forests but are rarely seen as they spend the majority of their lives in the canopy.
The ngahere geckos have had tiny radio transmitters taped to their backs, left, so they can be monitored.