Migrating Naturalist: The Lucky House Gecko

It seems appropriate on Chinese New Year to celebrate the good qualities of an animal commonly found in and around homes in Hawaii. The gecko is one of my absolute favourite creatures in the area, for several reasons. Firstly, they are well known predators of the many insects that live in this tropical climate. You would be hard pressed to find a home in Hawaii that hasn’t at some point fended off an invasion from ants, cockroaches, or even a few dangerous centipedes. Often a few crumbs left on the counter will within hours become a feast, with a samba line of ants leading into and across your kitchen. Geckos are incredibly efficient at catching even the quickest of insects, and with their voracious appetite, just one of these little lizards can keep your whole kitchen clear. They have even been known to battle and ingest cockroaches almost equal to them in size!

There are currently 8 species of gecko (family: Gekkonidae) in the Hawaiian Islands, all of which have been introduced at some point in time, the first likely being stowaways aboard Polynesian canoes. They have played a significant role in Polynesian and Hawaiian mythology, as they were thought to be living representatives of the mo’o, an ancient lizard guardian spirit.  The mo’o was thought to guard individuals and families, which explains why a gecko living in the house today is seen as a symbol of good luck. If you are fortunate enough to have a gecko living in your home, you should show it respect and keep it safe. Even now as I write, the friendly chattering call of a gecko sounds outside my window, and I can only hope it might find a way inside.  In addition to their practical and mythological benefits, they are also quite adorable, and can even be handled gently, if you are quick enough to catch one!

My name is Diana, and for the past two years, I have been travelling between my naturalist position in Tofino with West Coast Aquatic Safaris, and my research intern position with the Hawaii Whale Research Foundation. Throughout my second season with HWRF, I am writing regular blogs, describing my experiences on the water and here in Maui.

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