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New Zealand cryptid, Polynesian cryptid
insectivore, Arboreal, Out-of-scale, Lazarus taxon, Physical evidence, Featured in Native folklore
The kawekaweau is an unknown species of enormous gecko said to live in New Zealand. According to Māori folklore, kawekaweaus are said to be larger than the Duvaucel's gecko, which is the largest known gecko in New Zealand. They are also sometimes described as having a serrated crest on their back.
In 1870, a Māori chief found a kawekaweau under the bark of a decaying rata tree in the WaimanaValley. He said it was brownish in colour, had reddish stripes, and was very large for a gecko, being "as thick as a man's wrist.”
More modern sightings also exist. A man named Joe McClutchie claimed to have seen a kawekaweau on two separate occasions, one in the late 60s and the other in the early 80s. Both sightings occurred when he was driving in the rainforest at night.
In the 1970s, a man named Neil Farndale was driving with his friends when he accidentally ran over a two-foot-long lizard. Unfortunately, he did not keep the carcass, perhaps unaware it was an unknown species.
Unexpectedly, in 1979, a possible stuffed kawekaweau was discovered in an old archive at the Marseilles Natural History Museum in France. The specimen was unlike any known species and was named Hoplodactylus delcourti, or "Delcourt'ssticky-toed gecko," after its rediscoverer. To this day, no other specimen like it has been discovered and the species is usually considered extinct.
Though the specimen is often confidently described as being a kawekaweau, when, by who, or even where it was found is unknown. Furthermore, the kawekaweau is often described as having a serrated dorsal crest, which Delcourt'sgecko doesn't have. On the other hand, the anatomy of Delcourt's gecko is otherwise near-identical to the kawekaweau, being about two feet long, with brown skin, and red stripes. Delcourt'sgecko is also placed in the Hoplodactylusgenus, which is only known in New Zealand.
Some theorize the kawekaweau is unrelated to Delcourt'sgecko and is instead a relict population of tuataras, which are thought to have been completely extirpated on the mainland of North Island. This is due to tuataras also having a serrated dorsal crest, like the kawekaweau, and is also the same size.
This cryptid is particularly unique, as it presently could be a known species wrongfully declared extinct (Delcourt's gecko), a known species outside their accepted range (tuatara), or a completely unknown animal altogether (new species).