Unknown Lizard of Australasia.
Etymology: Maori (Austronesian) word. Without the final "u" (Kawekawea), it refers to the Long-tailed cuckoo (Eudynamis taitensis).
Variant names: Kaweau, Kumi, Moko, Ngarara, Taniwha
Physical description: Like a large gecko. Length, 2—6 feet. Thick as a man's wrist. Brown with red, longitudinal stripes. Projecting upper lip. Large teeth. Serrated dorsal crest. Said to have six legs.
Behavior: Nocturnal. Arboreal. Makes gut-teral sounds. Eats roots and small birds. Habitat: Forests, riverbanks, caves. Distribution: Waoku Plateau; near Gisborne, North Island, New Zealand.
Significant sightings: A Urewera Maori chief killed one of these lizards in 1870 in the Waimana Valley, North Island.
Joe McClutchie claims to have seen a giant gecko twice—once in the late 1960s and again in the early 1980s—while driving at night.
In the late 1970s, Neil Farndale and others were driving at night when their car hit and killed a huge lizard. It was about 2 feet long. Possible explanations:
(1) A living population of Delcourt's giant gecko (Hoplodactylus delcourti), the world's largest gecko, known only from a single specimen of unknown provenance in the Marseille Natural History Museum. It is a short-headed lizard that measures 2 feet long. Other Hoplodactylus geckos live primarily in New Zealand.
(2) Exaggeration of the size either of one of the sixty species of native gecko (Hoplodactylus or Naultinus), the largest of which is the 6-inch Giant gecko (H. duvaucelii), or of the 12-inch Otago skink (Oligosoma otagense).
(3) An out-of-place Tuatara (Sphenodon punctatus), a 2-foot-long, lizardlike reptile that is now confined to about twenty small islands off the northeast coast of New Zealand and in Cook Strait.
(4) A misidentified introduced animal, such as a Ferret (Mustela furo).
(5) A Maori mythological creature. Sources: W. G. Mair, "Notes on Rurima
Rocks," Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 5 (1873): 151-153; H. D. Skinner, "Crocodile and Lizard in New Zealand Myth and Material Culture," Records of the Otago
Museum, Anthropology 1 (1964): 1—43; Aaron M. Bauer and Anthony P. Russell, "Hoplodactylus delcourti (Reptilia: Gekkonidae) and the Kawekaweau of Maori Folklore," Journal ofEthnobiology 7 (1987): 83-91; Aaron M. Bauer and Anthony P. Russell, "Osteological Evidence for the Prior Occurrence of a Giant Gecko in Otago, New Zealand," Cryptozoology 7 (1988): 22-37; Aaron M. Bauer and Anthony P. Russell, "Recent Advances in the Search for the Living Giant Gecko of New Zealand," Cryptozoology 9 (1990): 66-73; Michel Raynal and Michel Dethier, "Lézards géants des Maoris: La verité derrière la légende," Bulletin Mensuel de la Société Linnéene de Lyon 59 (March 1990): 85-91; "Search for Giant Gecko Intensifies," ISC Newsletter 9, no. 4 (Winter 1990): 1-4.
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