Should you be afraid of the Hawaiian Gecko Lizard?

Sep 30, 2021 | General Information

When I first came to Hawaii in the early 70’s and worked in a major hotel I was surprised at the number of tourists who would call housekeeping to come and remove a gecko they may have found on their wall or on their window screen. Sometimes petrified and cringing in the furthest corner of the unit away from the tiny lizard they could not get any sleep until the gecko was removed. In all actuality they could have been more worried about getting up and being ready to catch their tour van in the morning because these adorable lizards pose no threat whatsoever to humans!

The biggest threats they pose are to the insects like mosquitoes, cockroaches, flies and spiders that might have found their way into the house as they are ferocious hunters and can take on insects often times almost as big as themselves. And in addition to providing humans with this valuable extermination service, they have also been credited by the ancient Hawaiians as having significant spiritual importance. Many Hawaiian legends speak of the magical Mo’o (gecko) who had shaping-shifting qualities and could often become something far different than a simple lizard. Stories of geckos turning into a beautiful seductress or a dragon were often passed down by word of mouth or in Hawaiian chants. The Mo’o was a protected and revered animal spirit in Hawaii like the owl and the shark and were referred to as ‘amakua’ or the spiritual connectors to the world of the gods.

Although there are hundreds of species that live throughout the tropical and subtropical areas around the globe, included many of the southern states in the U.S. there are only six or seven species which are found in Hawaii and many of them have recently arrived, probably as stowaways on ships in the past 50 years. The original Hawaiian geckos that are mentioned in the legends are likely to have traversed the seas from Polynesia with the very first Hawaiian voyagers.