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Gerrard Eckhoff

The Jewelled Gecko

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There is an old adage that observes that if you want the same result, just keep on doing the same things.

The loss of the famed Jewelled Gecko to wild life smugglers continues unabated from the Otago Peninsula and no doubt – else where. In fact they (the Geckos) are no sooner returned by Customs and DoC to their “natural” surroundings when some other foreign or indigenous scoundrel nicks them again.

Meanwhile their numbers decline as more and more are “exported”

Society’s response to this affront is a lead article in the ODT and comment from suitably outraged citizens. The smugglers are appropriately described as greedy people with little regard to the sanctity of NZs indigenous wildlife.

In the most recent case, the indignant judge felt Parliament should increase the fine and jail sentences available to be imposed. Despite the likely hood of such popular measures, does any body really think there will be a fall off of interest by smugglers?

What will happen is all too obvious. As the penalties go up (along with the risk of being caught), so too will the price of the jewelled gecko in the (illegal but real) market place. Logic decrees that the higher the price, the greater the risk the smugglers are prepared to accept. Without realising it, the Department of Conservation will effectively be incentivising the illegal export of our Jewelled Gecko to meet an obviously insatiable demand overseas. The international price tag of upwards of $10,000 per reptile becomes an incentive to all those willing to break the law as they are also willing to risk the sanction of fines or a compulsory extended stay as a guest of Her Majesty’s facility at nearby Milton.

Consider this alternative to the Governments version of how wildlife should exist in NZ.

Authorized gecko breeders with secure premises engage in state sanctioned commerce with buyers from all over the world. The Jewelled Gecko live out their lives in five star accommodation provided by the authorized breeder and freed from the annoying habit of having to find food as that would be provided fresh daily by the authorized breeder. The prospect of ending up as a tasty morsel themselves for a passing cat, ferret or stoat is eliminated. This singular action of security against nature’s sanctioned predation would likely double the population of the Jewelled Gecko in twelve months.

The problem then arises as what to do with the abundant offspring of a breeding pair.

In the world most of us inhabit, a breeder of surplus stock advertises surplus goods for sale either locally or on the internet to attract international buyers. The authorized breeder may well then be required to return a commission to the Department of Conservation who in turn could use those funds for other projects, happy in the knowledge that the Jeweled Gecko has been saved from extinction.

The real question is – would such a system (to save the Jewelled Gecko) work in reality.

It seems to work for sheep, cattle, caged birds, rare fowl, fish,

dogs, cats, pigs, crocodiles, deer….. Well – I think you get the picture. The only real risk to the concept is the scheme being too successful. Somebody is likely to suggest – if saving the Jewelled Gecko is really so easy why not apply the same principles to many other wildlife species and increase the nation’s coffers?

I would be happy to trial the concept and even pay for DoC’s oversight of the project.

At 10k a reptile we would help pay off the nation’s debt and soon have enough left over to mount a reverse take over of DoC.

Now there’s a thought.