Woodworthia "Cromwell"

Kawarau gecko

Woodworthia "Cromwell"

Kawarau gecko (Clyde, Central Otago) <a href="https://www.instagram.com/samuelpurdiewildlife/">© Samuel Purdie</a>
Image attribution
Kawarau gecko (Clyde, Central Otago) © Samuel Purdie
Herpetofaunal category
NZ Geckos
Species complex
Conservation Status
At Risk - Declining
Previous scientific names
Hoplodactylus maculatus
Common names
Kawarau gecko,
Cromwell gecko.

Length: SVL up to 78mm, with the tail being equal to the body length

Weight: unknown


A beautiful, often striped species of Woodworthia endemic to a relatively small area of Otago. Dorsal surface typically grey, brown, or olive, with pale blotches, bands or longitudinal stripes. This species also often possesses a pale canthal stripe between the nostrils and eye that can be broad or triangular. The ventral surface is typically light brown or grey and speckled. Kawarau geckos possess pale golden-brown, pale green, or dark brown-black eyes, sometimes with green flecks. (pers. comm. Tony Jewell 2021; van Winkel et al. 2018; Jewell 2018).

Life expectancy

Unknown, probably relatively long lived like other Woodworthia species (perhaps in excess of 25 or 30 years).


This species can be found in the Dunstan Mountains, Cairnmur Range, Old Woman Range, near Queenstown (Gibston Valley and Crown Range), Wanaka, and Ruby Island in Lake Wanaka. This species is known from both lower elevations (in the rugged Otago valleys) and high elevations (rarely up to 1300 m) (van Winkel et al. 2018; Jewell 2018).  This species differs dramatically between some locations. Those in Dunstan Mountains and Cairnmuir Range are much smaller, more slender, more narrow-toed, with larger paler eyes. They are also more variable and typically lighter in colouration than those from elsewhere. Striped individuals are generally only found in the Dunstan/Cairnmuir form. 

Ecology and habitat

Kawarau geckos are a cathemeral, terrestrial species that is active at night, but will often sun bask at the entrances to their rocky retreats. They are relatively gregarious and in suitable retreats can be found in large aggregations. They are known to inhabit crevices in schist rock or below slabs/ boulders in rocky shrubland. On Ruby Island they are known to inhabit vegetation such as flax and cabbage trees (van Winkel et al. 2018; Jewell 2018). 

Social structure

Can be highly gregarious and form large aggregations of various age classes in suitable retreats. 

Breeding biology

Typically reproduce annually, give birth in late January- February. 


Feed on invertebrates and probably the fruits of small shrubs. 



Conservation strategy

Kawarau geckos are not being actively managed. 

Interesting notes

The Kawarau gecko gets both its common and TAG names from the general area where it is known to occur. Kawarau refers to the river that runs to the east of Lake Wakatipu, and Cromwell being a town at the southern end of Lake Dunstan.

Kawarau geckos are members of the 'common gecko' complex, a group of closely related species which are regionally distributed throughout New Zealand. Historically, most of these were considered a single highly-variable species - Hoplodactylus maculatus (the so called 'common gecko'). The 'common gecko' has now been separated into over ten different species.

The Kawarau gecko sits within the Southern clade of the Woodworthia complex, with the Schist gecko (Woodworthia "Central Otago") being its closest relative within the group.


Hitchmough R (1997): A Systematic Revision of the New Zealand Gekkonidae. Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand.

Hitchmough, R.A., Barr, B., Lettink, M., Monks, J., Reardon, J., Tocher, M., van Winkel, D., Rolfe, J. (2016). Conservation status of New Zealand reptiles, 2015; New Zealand threat classification series 17. Wellington: New Zealand Department of Conservation.

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. (2006). Identifying geckos in Otago. Science & Technical Pub., Department of Conservation.

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

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.

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