Mokopirirakau "Cascades"

Cascade gecko

Mokopirirakau "Cascades"

Cascade gecko (Fiordland). <a href="">© Samuel Purdie</a>
Image attribution
Cascade gecko (Fiordland). © Samuel Purdie
Herpetofaunal category
NZ Geckos
Species complex
Conservation Status
At Risk - Declining
Common names
Cascade gecko

Length: SVL up to 95mm, with the tail being equal to or shorter than the body length

Weight: Unknown


The Cascade gecko is an exquisite gecko species that occupies some of Aotearoa's harshest ecosystems. Cascade geckos typically have a grey, brown, or olive dorsal surface with striking chevrons or blotches. These beautiful markings are often interrupted by orange, orange-brown, red, or mustard blotches. Their ventral surface is usually speckled and sometimes bears irregular stripes. Their mouth interior and tongue is usually bright orange or yellow. Cascade geckos typically have brown or olive-grey eyes.

Life expectancy

Unknown. May be very long lived.


Widespread in Northern Fiordland and Southern Westland. 

Ecology and habitat

Cascade geckos are cathemeral, terrestrial, and occasionally arboreal (very few records exist from forested ecosystems). They are primarily associated with rocky alpine/sub-alpine habitats (up to 1,700 metres above sea level), where they inhabit sheer rock walls, deep rocky crevices, boulderfield, and open rocky shrublands. Like other cryptic 'alpine' Mokopirirakau geckos, such as the Tākitimu gecko (Mokopirirakau cryptozoicus), Cascade geckos have been recorded in forested ecosystems, however, they are apparently very uncommon, or seldom observed in these ecosystems now (van Winkel et al. 2018). 

Social structure


Breeding biology

Very little is known about the reproductive biology of Cascade geckos, but females are thought to breed/reproduced every two or three years.


Presumably insectivorous and likely feeds on alpine sugar sources such as nectar or fruits. 



Conservation strategy

This species is being monitored using a variety of methods as part of a Department of Conservation alpine reptiles initiative. 

Interesting notes

Both their common and TAG names refer to the Cascade Plateau - one of the first areas where this species was found to occur. 

Astonishingly, one individual was found by climbers in Fiordland approximately 150 metres up a near-vertical rock wall. 

The Cascade gecko, along with its sister taxa (the Open Bay Islands gecko) sit within the western clade of the Mokopirirakau genus, with the broad-cheeked gecko being their closest relative within the group.


Bell, T. P., Patterson, G., & Jewell, T. (2007). Alpine lizard research in Fiordland National Park. DOC Research and Development Series304.

Hitchmough, R., Barr, B., Knox, C., Lettink, M., Monks, J. M., Patterson, G. B., Reardon, J. T., van Winkel, D., Rolfe, J., & Michel, P. (2021). Conservation status of New Zealand reptiles, 2021New Zealand threat classification series 35. Wellington: New Zealand Department of Conversation.

Jewell, T. (2008). A photographic guide to reptiles and amphibians of New Zealand. Auckland: New Holland.

Johnston, L. (2014). Trials and Evaluations of Monitoring Tools for New Zealand’s Alpine Skinks: The Barrier skink (Oligosoma judgei) and the Sinbad skink (O. pikitanga). A report submitted in partial fulfilment of the Post-graduate Diploma in Wildlife Management, University of Otago. 

Nielsen, S. V., Bauer, A. M., Jackman, T. R., Hitchmough, R. A., & Daugherty, C. H. (2011). New Zealand geckos (Diplodactylidae): cryptic diversity in a post-Gondwanan lineage with trans-Tasman affinities. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution59(1), 1-22.

O’Donnell, C. F., Weston, K. A., & Monks, J. M. (2017). Impacts of introduced mammalian predators on New Zealand’s alpine fauna. New Zealand Journal of Ecology41(1), 1-22.

van Winkel, D., Baling, M., Hitchmough, R. 2018. Reptiles and amphibians of New Zealand – a field guide. Auckland university press, Auckland New Zealand.