A German visitor was caught trying to board a flight at Christchurch Airport on Sunday with endangered geckos and skinks hidden in his underwear.

Hans Kurt Kubus, a 58-year-old from Bad Munstereifel, Limbach, Germany, pleaded guilty in Christchurch District Court today to five charges of trading in exploited species, and two of hunting absolutely protected wildlife.

The court was told the geckos alone would have been worth $50,000 on the blackmarket in Europe. The value of the skinks is unknown.

Department of Conservation prosecutor Mike Bodie said all New Zealand geckos were absolutely protected under the Trade in Endangered Species Act.

He said Kubus was a German citizen who entered New Zealand at Christchurch Airport on November 15.

On Sunday he checked his luggage in at the airport and got a boarding pass to leave New Zealand.

"When searched by New Zealand Customs Service staff a small package was located concealed inside the defendant's underwear," said Mr Bodie.

"The package contained eight separate compartments separating various gecko and skink species. The defendant had hand-sewn the eight compartments together to form a single compact concealed package. The defendant's luggage also contained a single gecko in a rolled up sock."

A DOC herpetologist identified 24 geckos from five species, and 20 skinks of two species.

All the animals had been taken from the wild, contrary to the Wildlife Act.

"It was also determined that 14 our of 15 adult female geckos and 12 out of 14 female skinks in the defendant's possession were pregnant. Each pregnant animal is likely to give birth to multiple live young in the coming weeks."

"When interviewed, the defendant admitted trading geckos and taking geckos and skinks from the wild without any permit or authority and was subsequently arrested."

There was a blackmarket trade in geckos, particularly in Europe, Mr Bodie said.

"The conservative 'street' value of the geckos traded by the defendant is at least 1000 Euros per animal, or about $50,000 for 24 geckos."

The value of the skinks was unknown because this was the first time trading in skinks had been identified.

Judge Raoul Neave remanded Kubus on bail for sentencing on January 25 and asked for a pre-sentence report.

- NZPA