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.
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.
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.
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.
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’.
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!