The rare harlequin gecko (Hoplodactylus rakiurae) is possibly the most distinctive of all known New Zealand geckos. Its body is marked with a complex herringbone pattern comprised of a network of grey and white lines, often with orange shadings (2). Its underside is less colourful, being grey-brown with green or brown mottling (2). The inside of the harlequin gecko’s mouth is dark greyish-blue on the roof and pink on the floor, and its tongue is dark grey-indigo (2). The tail is roughly the same length as the head and body combined (2).
The harlequin gecko is typical of most Hoplodactylus geckos in that it is primarily a nocturnal animal. However, it may also be found during the day basking in the sun (2). It spends its nights foraging in the undergrowth, searching for insect prey, and will also feed upon nectar from flowers (6).
Like the rest of the New Zealand geckos, the harlequin gecko gives birth to live young instead of laying eggs (6). Whilst information on reproduction in this species is scant, it is likely to be similar to other Hoplodactylus species, which give birth to one or two offspring each year (7).
The harlequin gecko is endemic to Stewart Island, located off the southern coast of New Zealand’s South Island. The main population is located on the southern half of this island (4). Living at 47 degrees south of the equator makes the harlequin gecko the southernmost gecko species in the world (5).
Little is known about the threats directly faced by the harlequin gecko. However, like most reptiles native to New Zealand, it is probably susceptible to predation from invading mammals such as rats and cats (8). Habitat destruction is also another common threat shared by native species, as huge areas of forest have been cut down or burned to clear open areas for pasture (6).
Eradicating predatory mammals from New Zealand’s offshore islands is the primary method used to conserve harlequin gecko numbers, along with other species of geckos (6). Geckos can also be relocated to ‘safe islands’, islands where invasive species have been eradicated, to form new populations (6).
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