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Conservation status

Extinct  (1870) (IUCN 2.3)[1]
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Lacertilia
Family: Gekkonidae
Subfamily: Diplodactylinae
Genus: Hoplodactylus
Species: H. delcourti
Binomial name
Hoplodactylus delcourti
Bauer & Russell, 1986

The kawekaweau or Delcourt's giant gecko, Hoplodactylus delcourti, was by far the largest of all geckos with a snout-to-vent length of 370 mm (14.6 in) and an overall length of at least 600 mm (23.6 in).[2] It was endemic to New Zealand, and is now believed to be extinct.[1][a]

In 1870, a Māori chief killed a kawekaweau he found under the bark of a dead rata tree in the forests of the Waimana Valley[5] (now protected as part of the northern section of Te Urewera National Park[6]). This is the only documented report of anyone ever seeing one of these animals alive.[5] He described it as being "brownish with reddish stripes and as thick as a man's wrist". A single stuffed museum specimen was "discovered" in the basement of the Natural History Museum of Marseille in 1986;[4] however, the origins and date of collection of the specimen remain a mystery, as when it was found, it was not labelled.[5] Scientists examining it eventually concluded it was from New Zealand and was in fact the lost "kawekaweau", a giant and mysterious forest lizard of Maori oral tradition.

This animal's specific epithet is taken from the surname of French museum worker Alain Delcourt, who discovered the forgotten specimen in the basement of the Marseille museum.[4]


  1. ^ The largest extant species of gecko is Leach's giant gecko of New Caledonia, at 360 mm (14.2 in) long;[3] the endangered Duvaucel's gecko is the largest surviving species of gecko in New Zealand, also one of the largest in the world.[4]


  1. ^ a b World Conservation Monitoring Centre (1996). "Hoplodactylus delcourti". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.1. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 2013-10-04. 
  2. ^ Kerry-Jayne Wilson (2004). Flight of the Huia: Ecology and Conservation of New Zealand's Frogs, Reptiles, Birds and Mammals. Christchurch, N.Z: Canterbury University Press. ISBN 0-908812-52-3. 
  3. ^ Allison Ballance and Rod Morris, Island Magic; Wildlife of the South Seas, David Bateman publishing, 2003.
  4. ^ a b c Brian Gill and Tony Whitaker, New Zealand Frogs and Reptiles, David Bateman Publishing, 1996. ISBN 978-1869532642.
  5. ^ a b c A.M. Bauer and A.P. Russell, "Hoplodactylus delcourti n. sp. (Reptilia: Gekkonidae), the largest known gecko", New Zealand Journal of Zoology (1986), Vol. 13: 141–148. doi:10.1080/03014223.1986.10422655
  6. ^ "Waimana Valley tracks". New Zealand Department of Conservation. Retrieved 2013-10-04. 

Further reading[edit]

  • New Zealand frogs and reptiles, Brian Gill and Tony Whitaker, David Bateman publishing, 1996

External links[edit]