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Lizard surveying

Lizard surveying

11 April 2022

Lizard survey techniques employ the use of tree covers to allow hiding places for geckos that are easy to access. Tree covers (along with ground covers and monitoring tunnels) allow for repeated surveys in the same location as an estimate of local population densities.

Photo: A typical lizard station with tree cover, monitoring tunnel and ground cover (ACO – Artificial Cover Object). 

When creating a plan for a permanent lizard survey in Te Tui e Taane our southern enclosure we consulted with mana whenua. They asked that we find an alternative for having nails in trees for the tree covers. This would save 80 large trees from having nail holes in them, but also meant some kiwi ingenuity was needed to redesign how the tree covers would be attached!

Design one utilised non-perishable string to simply tie the covers to the tree. However, lizard expert Moniqua Nelson-Tunley (Waikato Regional Council) gave feedback that geckos would be unlikely to be using these easily, as the top section was tight against the tree, not providing enough of a gap for those geckos scuttling down trees looking for cover (although it doesn’t seem to stop MASSIVE cave weta from finding and using the covers!)

Hence design two, which we recently installed for half the tree covers (40) and 40 more to go. Here we used wooden dowling strapped to the tree covers to provide enough of a gap for geckos to enter and exit uninhibited.

Volunteers David Pattemore and Ashley Mortensen.

Fingers crossed this new design works well. It also shows that it’s relatively simple to think up new ways to carry out restoration mahi whilst minimising harm to native flora and fauna, including our long-lived tree.

Photo: The MASSIVE wētā

Volunteers Aimee O’Sullivan and Moniqua Nelson-Tunley with designs in action.