A local researcher checks a lizard trap.A weta house built at Otago Corrections’ Facility  has had early success with Japanese researchers looking to trap Green Anole lizards on the Ogasawara islands.

Researcher Naho Mitani, from the Department of Bioenvironmental and Agricultural Engineering College of Bioresource Sciences at Nihon University contacted the prison late last year when she saw the weta houses and was keen to trial it as a potential solution for trapping the invasive lizard.

The prison has been building the weta houses for a couple of years and these are placed by volunteers on DoC tracks to provide living and breeding spaces for weta and to engage visitors and educate them about the importance of safeguarding native fauna.

“We were surprised to get an approach to use the weta houses for another species, and from another country, and were very keen to help out,” says Wayne Young, Otago Corrections Facility Manager Industries.

“It is really exciting to hear that the prison built weta house could also help another country to protect their native species.”

The weta houses were designed at the prison and built by prisoners training in carpentry for the Department of Conservation.

The Green Anole, also known as the Carolina Anole, were found on Japan's Anijima Island in 2013 and since then has bred to endemic proportions. The species has been listed as an Invasive Alien Species in Japan since June 2005.

The Ogasawara islands are an isolated chain of 30 tropical and subtropical islands approximately 1,000 kilometers, 24 hours by boat, south of Tokyo. Often referred to as the Galapagos of the Orient, the islands were recognised as a UNESCO’s World Heritage site in 2011.

The Green Anole was first seen on the islands in (1960s) and its fast reproduction rate and propensity has had a large impact on local insect populations. The green anole has been directly implicated in the demise of five endemic dragonfly species, a blue Lycaenid butterfly, an endemic cicada and a long-horned beetle.

“I wanted to see if the weta house could attract the invasive lizard, green anole, on Ogasawara Islands, so I asked one of my colleagues living and working on Ogasawara to put the weta house in the field on trial.” Says Assistant Professor Mitani

“We need an innovative tool to catch the anole lizard exclusively, because an endemic lizard also lives there.”

“Last week, my colleague said that they put the weta house on a dilapidated trash bin, the next day, they found an anole lizard in the weta house.”

“Now, it is winter in Japan and not a great season for further control experiments on the lizard,” says Assistant Professor Mitani. “We will continue the experiments in this northern hemisphere summer.”

“The cooperation of Otago Correction Facilities is really appreciated.” She says,

“Thank you very much.”