Sunday, February 11, 2001
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Posted on: Sunday, February 11, 2001

Madagascar geckos threaten habitat

By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Science Writer

A new, large lizard species has become established on Oahu, wildlife officials say.

Phelsuma madagascariensis, commonly named the Madagascar giant day gecko, can grow to a foot long. It is bright green with orange spots on its head and lower back. A spotting of the alien gecko was reported in Manoa late January.

Photo courtesy of

The Madagascar giant day gecko, bright green with orange spots, can grow to a foot long.

A crew from the state Department of Land and Natural Resources caught one in Manoa Valley in late January, near where another was caught in 1996.

"Finding two adults so near together four years apart means that the species has successfully reproduced and is able to survive and expand its range in the wild," said the department’s alien species coordinator, Fred Kraus.

The animals, known to science as Phelsuma madagascariensis, are believed to have escaped from captivity. They eat insects and will also eat fruit. Wildlife officials fear they will compete with native birds for food.

The animals are not a threat to humans.

Alien species are arriving in Hawaii on a regular basis, threatening native species and agriculture.

A multi-agency group has been formed to address the issue. The Coordinating Group on Alien Pest Species is trying to find ways to stop the influx.

Kraus said the Madagascar giant day gecko is the 30th species of reptile or amphibian to become established in the Islands. Many have arrived through illegal animal smuggling, often for the exotic pet trade.

"What we’re seeing is the result of continued illegal activity that again highlights the need for comprehensive statewide efforts to curb animal smuggling," Kraus said.

A copy of the coordinating group’s report on the introduction of alien species is available on the Web.

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