A few weeks back my partner and I were very fortunate to have been invited onto Mahakirau Forest Estate on the Coromandel peninsula.

The purpose of the visit was to locate and photograph some Archeys frogs. Unfortunately due to the dry hot weather we have experienced this summer, my timing was a little off and conditions were not conducive for locating these little gems. However, I am ever so grateful to Sara from Mahakirau for showing us around and allowing us to meet a few of the other local wildlife stars that have made this place home including (with much excitement) one of NZ’s last remaining frog species, the Hochstetters frog.

 The Mahakirau Forest Estate comprises almost 600 hectares of native forest divided into 24 private properties with introduced animal and plant controls. 

Mahakirau Forest Estate Society Incorporated is undertaking pest control (to protect and restore biodiversity) on behalf of all member landowners.  The Society are a highly motivated and active group of individuals driven by the desire to protect and enhance the Coromandel and New Zealand’s natural environment, and in particular, its threatened species.

Their hard work is paying off as is evident from the wide ranging plant and animal species that are making this environment their home. This includes extremely rare Northern striped gecko, Hochstetter’s and Archey’s frogs, North Island kaka and North Island brown kiwi, alongside significant indigenous vegetation. Helms butterflies, painted cave weta and longfin eel have also all been found in the estate. There are strong resident populations of kereru, tui, bellbird, fantail, tomtit, silver eye, grey warbler, kingfisher, morepork and shining cuckoo.

 We were fortunate enough to come across the following wildlife……

Northern Striped Gecko (Toropuku “Coromandel”)

The Northern striped gecko is considered to be New Zealand’s rarest and most elusive reptile, and possibly one of the world’s rarest gecko. 

Discovered in 1997 on the Coromandel Peninsula, they are nocturnal and well camouflaged by their stripes and colour, which hopefully will mean they will slowly increase in numbers in this little pocket of the Coromandel.

This little guy has now been catalogued and named ‘Otis’.
 

Hochstetters frog (Leiopelma hochstetteri)

The Hochstetter’s frog is the most widespread of the remaining four New Zealand native frogs and has been sighted around the upper half of the North Island, including at Waipu, Great Barrier Island, the Coromandel, central North Island, and the Raukumara Ranges.

It has partially webbed feet and has more warts than our other native frogs. They are nocturnal, staying under refugia during the day. Hochstetter’s frog prefers moist gaps under shaded debris, like rocks and logs and along streams and seepages. They are carnivorous, preying on invertebrates such as spiders, beetles, and mites.

Hochstetter’s frogs can live to 30 years old. Adults do not breed until they are three years old, laying up to 20 eggs each season.

Under the New Zealand Threat Classification scheme, the Hochsetter’s frog is listed as “At risk–Declining”.

Weta & Stick insects

The Wetas were rather spectacular in size and you can’t help but stand and stare in awe of these ancient dinosaur-era type insects.

We were also treated to varying sizes of stick insects whilst wandering around.

Several different spider species were also observed but I refrained from photographing these, although they were quite pretty in their own right (from a distance).

This really is a beautiful little piece of New Zealand paradise and was an insight into how New Zealand may have been in the past prior to human interference and the decline of many of New Zealand’s precious flora and fauna.

I am full of gratitude to the wonderful land owners who are investing so much of their time, money and energy into protecting and trying to re-establish some of the species that are threatened and diminishing elsewhere in NZ.  Knowing that there are pockets of Hochstetters and Archeys frogs in this bush area gives me hope that there may be other little unknown pockets of them also surviving elsewhere in the NZ bush.

I am so very thankful that this wildlife has such amazing guardians, who are looking after them and endeavoring to help them survive and flourish. I cannot thank Sara and the other landowners enough for sharing their slice of paradise with us, and allowing me to tick another New Zealand frog off my bucket list 🙂

If you would like to donate to the protection of some of NZ rarest flora and fauna, (I know the team at Mahakirau would appreciate it), please get in touch with Sara Smerdon