Emerald Gems, the green widlife secrets of Whenua Hou

Codfish Island, or Whenua Hou as it’s known in Te Rao, truly is a gem in New Zealand’s environmental crown. The island sits just of the coast of Stewart Island, far enough to be out of range of most swimming pests and as such has been free of the introduced mammals that plague mainland New Zealand for more than 12 years.

flying to Whenua Hou

Approaching Codfish Island

Our reason for heading to the island was not only to continue the care of kakapo, our most threatened and dare I say charismatic species but to also investigate a potentially new species of gecko.  A number of sightings had been made of a bright green gecko on the island, and given the high degree of endemism amongst the lizard species on Stewart Island, there was a good chance that the animals in question might be new to science. A tiny biopsy was collected and measurements taken – we now await news.

Mud Wiggle

A track name speaks a thousand words

DOC scientist, Dr. Hitchmough emerging from the Pakahe

We were also trialing some new reptile detection devices – lizards and especially geckos are extremely hard to observe in the deep south of New Zealand.

Herpetologists attaching cover object to tree

Herpetologists attaching cover object to tree

Night searching became a focus of our survey, and meant we also delighted in seeing may of the other nocturnal forest wildlife of this beautiful island. Not least the main focus of the islands management: kakapo. Whilst quietly working through the forest it was simply magical to come across kakapo quietly going about their nocturnal business of exploring the forest for food. Their quiet and delicate movements are a privilege to observe and allow a real appreciation of how perfectly evolved they are for a life in temperate rainforest.

Kakapo exploring the forest

Silent and delicate, a kakapo explores it's environment

Finally our surveying for geckos paid off and we located a green gecko (Naultinus sp.)! Over 200hrs of searching was required but what a prize! These geckos are nearly invisible until you well and truly ‘have your eye in’.

Naultinus sp. green gecko from Codfish Island

A Naultinus gecko, invisible in it's shrub home

With the job done we had to leave this amazing island and return to the office to write reports – but not before jamming more people and gear into a helicopter than most would think possible!

A fully loaded 500

In windy conditions the only way off the island is by chopper

Rugged Islands

Rugged Islands

~ by motolorax on August 18, 2010.

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