Gecko invasion spreads

GYMPIE region householders are climbing the walls over a cute but pesky little invader that also likes to climb the walls - the asian house gecko.

The asian house gecko is a native of south-eastern Asia that was first recorded in Darwin in the 1960s, and to Brisbane in the early 1980s.

Since coming ashore it has spread through large parts of tropical and sub-tropical Australia, particularly coastal Queensland, and in recent years has made itself quite at home in the Gympie region.

The little critter with the trademark "chuck-chuck-chuck" sound is now familiar to many local residents, and while some welcome them as cute and harmless, others find them noisy and messy and don't hesitate to "dispose" of them on sight. Asian house geckos can also have the annoying habit of setting off security alarms and short-circuiting air-conditioning units.

Though not a declared species under Queensland legislation they may be declared under local government law, though this is not the case in Gympie.

Gympie Regional Council noted yesterday that it appeared to be a "good year" for the translucent imports, but said the council had not received any complaints about them and had not made them a declared species.

While the gecko's impact has not been studied closely, it has been identified as a "generalist predator", possibly causing declines in urban populations of some native insects and spiders and competing with native gecko species for food.

Only introduced gecko in Australia. The Asian House Gecko is Australia's most successful invasive reptile.

Once considered to be a benign invader limited to urban areas, recent studies have shown that, as in other parts of their colonised range, asian house geckos have displaced native geckos from the house gecko niche and have spread into, and become established in considerable densities in, bushland habitat.

Female asian house geckos lay two eggs about every four to six weeks. The large, white eggs are sometimes clearly visible through the body wall of a female's underbelly. In the tropics, the geckos breed year-round, but in sub-tropical and more temperate areas like Gympie, their reproduction appears to take on a seasonal cycle and they do not breed during the winter.

These geckos are formidable colonisers and have become one of our most abundant urban lizards.

Queensland Museum herpetologists are currently examining the reproductive biology of this species in south-eastern Queensland.

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