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Jewelled Gecko

English name: Jewelled gecko


Maori name: Moko kakariki


Scientific name: Naultinus gemmeus


NZ status: At risk - declining.


Conservation status: At risk. Populations of the Otago form of jewelled gecko are declining and their survival is dependent on conservation management.


Found: South Island, from North Canterbury to Otago, and on several islands in Foveaux Strait. 


Size: Up to 80mm SVL


Did you know?: They can for live 20-25 years

Jewelled gecko, inland Otago form (2) co

Jewelled gecko, Inland Otago. Carey Knox

Jewelled gecko, inland Otago form (4) co

Jewelled gecko, Inland Otago. Carey Knox

Jewelled gecko, inland Otago form (3) co

Jewelled gecko, inland Otago. Carey Knox


Named for their striking colouration of white or lime diamonds outlined with black and set in vibrant emerald green, the jewelled gecko used to be a common inhabitant of the Otago drylands. From the coast, throughout the lowlands and up into sub-alpine areas, they dwelt in dense shrubland and in beech and podocarp forest. Scientists describe them as ‘cryptic’, meaning that because of their effective camouflage they’re quite difficult to spot. They’re most often seen in manuka and kanuka trees, or in dense matagouri or Coprosma shrubs, but can also be seen in tussock. 


The jewelled gecko is one of the eight “green geckos” or Naultinus geckos, a lizard group that is found only in New Zealand. This group is remarkable on a global scale, because of the approximately 2000 known species of gecko in the world, almost all of them are brown or grey in colour and are nocturnal, whereas New Zealand’s green geckos are active in the daytime and are all vibrantly coloured in various patterns of greens. Only one other gecko species in the world shares these two features, and they’re in Madagascar. 


The jewelled gecko is the most southern of New Zealand’s green gecko species. Existing in Canterbury, Otago and Foveaux Strait, it varies a little in appearance in each region. The inland Otago jewelled geckos are a deep emerald green with lime green diamond or cross shaped markings along their back, edged in black and often connected together. They also have lime green markings on their lower jaw and head. Their tongues and insides of their mouths are light pink or mauve, and their eyes are shades of olive green to brown. The soles of their feet are yellow. 


Active in the daytime, the jewelled gecko spends some of its time sun basking, absorbing energy from the sun’s heat. When necessary they retreat into denser foliage, or take refuge on the ground under rocks or logs. The bulk of their diet is made up of insects. This is supplemented by fruits and nectar, especially in the summer months.


As with other Naultinus species, the males sometimes show aggressive behaviour towards other males, especially when there’s females around. They arch their backs, open their mouths in a threatening manner and flick their tails from side to side. 


Most years, once they’ve reached about four years old, the female jewelled gecko gives birth to twins in the summer months. They give birth to live young, not eggs, which is another rare global phenomenon, this one shared only with several species in New Caledonia.

SVL jewelled

SVL: Snout to vent length. A measurement of size taken from the tip of an animal's nose to the opening of the cloaca (the combined excretory and genital opening) at the base of the tail. It is the common length measurement used for lizards. 

Hitchmough, R. et al. (2015). Conservation Status of New Zealand Reptiles 2015. New Zealand Threat Classification Series 17. Department of Conservation. Wellington, NZ.


van Winkel et al. (2018). Reptiles and amphibians of New Zealand: A field guide. New Zealand: Auckland University Press. 


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