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‘At Risk’ Native Geckos Returned To Reserve

A barking gecko.

After Covid level changes last month postponed their freedom, rare and “at risk” native geckos resumed life in the wild today. Cared for in Wellington over the past 14 months, they were welcomed back home to the Tararua Ranges by Rangitāne, Department of Conservation and Mercury.

The 16 geckos originally removed have returned with their own enlarged whānau: during the time they were sheltered in Wellington six baby Ngahere geckos were born. Today a total of 22 geckos (and one Ornate skink) were released deep within an intensively predator-controlled area on the Tararua Range, with extensive habitat and very low numbers of rats which will aid the geckos’ chances of survival in the wild.

Mercury understands that successful construction of the 60-turbine wind farm includes taking care of the land and the eco-systems it supports. Before a spade hit the ground pre-construction surveys by ecological specialists assessed the environment to identify the eco-systems that would need to be protected during the works. This mahi was supported by Rangitāne environmental arm Te Ao Turoa Environmental Centre.

Ngahere geckos and Barking geckos are secretive and naturally camouflaged. 120 person hours of comprehensive day and night searches by experienced herpetologists (lizard experts) led to the location and removal of the 16 geckos and single skink. Tangata whenua Rangitāne o Manawatū were involved with all of the search activities.

Amiria Te Whaiti (Tanenuiarangi Manawatū) and Stephanie Kirk (Mercury) lead to the release site.

“I am pleased to see our taonga returned to their natural habitat,” says Danielle Harris, Chief Executive of Tanenuiarangi Manawatū Incorporated. “We have been working with Mercury throughout the project to ensure our values have been honoured as the Treaty partner.”

Mercury’s GM Portfolio, Phil Gibson, celebrated the day as a milestone towards the generation of renewable electricity from the site. “Mercury takes a long-term view when it comes to significant investment in new electricity generation, and this includes our commitment to custodianship of this site, so that the land and the creatures, birds, water and vegetation are also protected for the long term.

“Mercury acknowledges and thanks Rangitāne, DOC, our ecology specialists Wildlands, and the on-the-ground construction contractor teams for the care they have taken to safeguard these creatures and the habitat they are returning to.”

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