Mokopirirakau "southern North Island"

Ngahere gecko

Mokopirirakau "southern North Island"

Ngahere geckos (Wellington). <a href="">© Nick Harker</a>
Image attribution
Ngahere geckos (Wellington). © Nick Harker
Herpetofaunal category
NZ Geckos
Species complex
Conservation Status
At Risk - Declining
Common names
Ngahere gecko,
Southern North Island forest gecko.

Length: SVL up to 96mm, with the tail being longer than the body length

Weight: unknown


An intricately patterned species of gecko from the southern half of the North Island. Ngahere geckos are similar in appearance to the forest gecko (Mokopirirakau granulatus) which fills the same ecological niche in the northern North Island.

Dorsal surface light grey to dark brown with transverse row of V or W shaped blotches on either side of the spine, often intermingled with bright yellow patches. In contrast to forest geckos (Mokopirirakau granulatus), Ngahere geckos often have a mid-dorsal break in their W-shaped markings, giving them a distinctive appearance. White stripe between ear and eye and V shaped mark behind eyes Ventral surface lighter with speckles/mottling.

Lining of mouth and tongue bright orange. Eyes are grey, brown or olive. Toes have 8-10 lamallae.

Similar to forest gecko but typically more robust in build, dorsal markings often less prominent and more commonly divided across the spine.

Click here for more information on how Ngahere gecko differ from other species within the Mokopirirakau complex.

Life expectancy

Estimates for captive animals range from 20-30 years (D. Keall, personal communication, September 21, 2016).


Southern North Island from Gisborne southwards to Wellington. It is currently unclear where the exact boundary between Ngahere and forest geckos (Mokopirirakau granulatus) occurs. In the central North Island it is possible these two species overlap in distribution and / or hybridisation may occur. Click here for the Mokopirirakau distribution map.

Ecology and habitat

Inhabits forest and shrubland, usually amongst trunks and larger branches of trees. A largely nocturnal species, will sunbask near retreats. Occasionally found in low shrubs, ferns, or creviced clay banks.

Social structure

As with our other Mokopirirakau species, Ngahere geckos are generally solitary, however, they may be found in small groups (2-5 animals) when utilising larger refuge sites (e.g. large tree cavities). Vocalisation among Mokopirirakau can be described as chirrups or shrill squeals when stressed.

Breeding biology

Ngahere gecko are viviparous, giving birth to one or two young over summer.


Insects, moths, flies, fruit and nectar.


Ngahere geckos are a known host for the ectoparasitic mite Neotrombicula naultini.

Conservation strategy

Ngahere gecko are classified by DOC as 'At Risk - Declining'.

Interesting notes

Despite the similarity in appearance and geographic proximity between Ngahere geckos and forest geckos (Mokopirirakau granulatus), the two species are not each others closest relatives. Ngahere geckos diverged from other species of Mokopirirakau much earlier, and forest geckos are most closely related to the black-eyed gecko (Mokopirirakau kahutarae) from the Marlborough and Tasman regions.

Although not formally described this species is likely to be named Mokopirirakau sylvestris after animals described by Walter Buller in 1881 (Buller, 1881), or as M. versicolor as per specimens described by William Colenso in 1885 (Colenso, 1885). 


Buller, W. L. (1881). Description of a new species of lizard of the genus Naultinus. In Trans Proc NZ Inst, 13, 419-420.

Colenso, W. (1885). Description of a small lizard, a species of Naultinus, supposed to be new to science. In Trans Proc NZ Inst, 17, 149-151.

Gollin, J. F., Gorman, N., & Armstrong, D. P. (2021). Twenty years on. New Zealand Journal of Ecology45(1), 1-9.

Hitchmough, R.A. (1997). A systematic review of the New Zealand Gekkonidae. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. Victoria University: Wellington, New Zealand.

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. (2011). A photographic guide to reptiles and amphibians of New Zealand. Auckland: New Holland Publishers.

Mockett, S. (2017). A review of the parasitic mites of New Zealand skinks and geckos with new host records. New Zealand journal of zoology44(1), 39-48.

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.

Robb, J. (1980). New Zealand amphibians and reptiles in colour. Auckland: William Collins Publishers Ltd.

Robb, J. (1986). New Zealand amphibians and reptiles. Auckland: Collins.

Romijn, R. L., Nelson, N. J., & Monks, J. M. (2014). Forest geckos (Mokopirirakau ‘Southern North Island’) display diurno-nocturnal activity and are not reliant on retreats. New Zealand Journal of Zoology41(2), 103-113.

van Winkel, D., Baling, M. & Hitchmough, R. (2018). Reptiles and Amphibians of New Zealand: A field guide. Auckland: Auckland University Press, 376 pp.

Whitaker, T.A.H., & Gaze, P.D. (1999). Conservation of lizards in Nelson/Marlborough Conservancy, 44.

Yee, G. E., Monks, J. M., & Bell, T. (2022). Spatial patterns and habitat use of penned and hard-released arboreal geckos translocated to an offshore island free of introduced mammals. New Zealand Journal of Ecology46(2), 1-11.