Endangered animal species
France, Reunion Island

‘Refuges for the Manapany ornate day gecko’, a participatory conservation initiative to preserve an endangered species in an urban environment

Male Manapany ornate day gecko © NOI

The Manapany ornate day gecko (Phelsuma inexpectata) is a species endemic to the island of Réunion. It is now found only in the south of the island on a narrow 11 km long coastal strip. The population is estimated at between 3000 and 5000, with a sharp decline in numbers observed over the last 20 years. The species is now classified as ‘critically endangered’ on the IUCN Red List.

The survival of this arboreal lizard depends on maintenance of its habitat, which is gradually disappearing. It lives in the vegetation native to the coastal cliffs and in private gardens. As these gardens are a prime habitat (home to nearly half the lizards), it is vital that the local population be involved in conservation efforts.

Adopting a participatory conservation approach, Operation ‘Refuges for the Manapany Ornate Day Gecko’ was launched on the initiative of the association Nature Océan Indien (NOI), to meet two main objectives:

  • To ensure long-term protection and conservation of the gecko populations in private gardens;

  • To improve the species’ living conditions and encourage the geckos to settle in new gardens.

The creation of a refuge is based on signature of an agreement, which commits the signatory to take the gecko into account in the everyday running of the household (garden maintenance, recommendations for any work required, etc.) and includes other optional measures (planting of suitable species, monitoring of the geckos on the person’s land). The association personally helps and supports each refuge by passing on useful information for protecting the species on the person’s land and providing free plants conducive to the gecko’s development in the gardens. In addition, NOI offers participants the chance to take part in individual and collective conservation efforts to protect the Manapany ornate day gecko: a network for reporting sightings of invasive species of green day gecko; plant production; volunteer ecological restoration work on the gecko’s natural habitat, etc.

For the coming year, the objective is to enhance the network of existing ‘refuges’ by extending it to new participants and proposing further action. The following initiatives are planned:

  • Identifying a minimum of 40 new ‘refuges’ to add to the existing 104. To do this, the NOI teams plan to produce and distribute an information leaflet on ‘Operation Refuge’ and to canvass residents living within the habitat area and a 200 meter radius as well as communicating through the media.
  • Visiting the existing refuges to exchange ideas, give advice and renew the agreement, if necessary. These visits will also enable NOI to carry out annual monitoring of the Manapany gecko population in an urban environment.
  • Production and distribution of 100 to 150 plants (to add to the 330 currently planted). The plant species will be chosen from the range suitable for the gecko. The donation of plants will help increase the habitat area.
  • Launching a new collective effort (special day for ecological restoration of the species’ habitat) and a new individual effort (monitoring of the geckos living in the refuges via photo identification).
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