The return of two illicitly taken native jewelled geckos to our shores sends a clear message that wildlife crime will not be tolerated, the Associate Conservation Minister says.
The two geckos were seized in Germany in December 2013 from a German national and placed under the care of staff from Cologne Zoo.
The markings on the geckos indicate they were poached from Otago.
"For many New Zealanders, geckos are considered a taonga or treasure so we are delighted that the hard work of New Zealand and German authorities has resulted in their return," Associate Conservation Minister Nicky Wagner says.
She says this is the first time that poached, live New Zealand wildlife has been repatriated from overseas.
"The geckos have been flown back to New Zealand and placed under the care of Wellington Zoo. Wellington Zoo has vast experience in caring for reptiles and is the best place for the jewelled geckos to be quarantined while they settle back into their natural climate and recover."
Because of their unique biosecurity status - native, but exposed to unknown biosecurity threats overseas - the geckos cannot be returned to the wild and experts will be considering the best option for their long term containment.
"Gecko smuggling is a serious challenge. All species of green gecko, including jewelled geckos, are in decline due to a combination of predation from introduced mammals and poaching," Ms Wagner says.