Sunday, August 26, 2012

Cohabiting with lizards


My house is full of lizards.

Specifically, geckos. I like geckos. I always have, but that’s a geographical thing. I mean I don’t know for sure, but there are probably places in the world where you don’t look up at the ceiling and see this, right:



I currently have eleven geckos. I counted them last night. But it’s been a while since a new bunch hatched, so I’m sure there will be a crop of tiny pink translucent babies appearing shortly. I will have to come up with some new names.

All my geckos have names that start with G. Gordon, obviously. Goliath, the largest, then Gary, Graham and Gargamel. Even though I have eleven geckos, I don't need more than five names because, honestly, who can tell the difference between them? 

The geckos live behind picture frames and in my fez during the day. They come out at night and eat insects. In a city that has occasional outbreaks of both Ross River and dengue fever, I appreciate their mosquito-killing abilities.

When I bought my house, the geckos didn’t know about cats. It was a killing field that first week. Now, the geckos stick to the ceiling and the architraves. I don’t know how many generations of geckos it’s been since I moved in, but they’ve obviously developed some sort of genetic memory that warns them the floor is dangerous territory.

Geckos are very territorial. They fight a lot amongst themselves. Sometimes, if a moth lands in the middle of the ceiling, three or four geckos will make a dash for it at once. Usually this is where I stop watching TV and watch the ceiling instead. It’s like a cross between Animal Planet and Spartacus up there. It’s vicious.

Geckos can shed their tails when they’re in danger. This is truly disgusting. And weird. And I mentioned disgusting, right? Okay, it’s evolutionarily fascinating, but come on! The cats don’t fall for it anymore, and I hate having to pick the tails up. I hate how they keep twitching even though they’re not attached. I hate how they tickle in the palm of my hand. It’s more like demonic possession than biology. Detached limbs should not move.

Scientists will tell you that geckos stick to the ceiling because of their toepads. I don’t believe this. I believe they do it by the power of concentration. And sometimes this concentration lapses and — splat! — a shell-shocked gecko is suddenly on the floor instead, wondering what the hell just happened. 

Geckos have taught me a lot about situational awareness. Before I take the lid off this pot on the stove, I will look above me and make sure I’m not about to scald some gecko and have him fall to his death into tonight’s dinner. Before I hit the button to boil the kettle, I’ll make sure it's uninhabited. That way a parboiled gecko won’t come sliding out into my coffee, and I won’t have to wonder how many cups I made, and drank, before he was dislodged.

Both true stories. Not mine, thankfully.

*** 

What wildlife do you share your life with? 

(Next week I'll introduce you to my window sill frog, Fidel Bonaventure Jumping-Castle. The second. The original died of old age.) 

15 comments:

  1. I like anole lizards (small green ones). They will cling to your fingers and never bite. The kids had them as pets.

    I don't think I'd like twitching tales on the floor either. And that's funny about checking the ceiling first when cooking. Smart, though.

    There's no wildlife in our place now, but we had to deal with raccoons and squirrels getting into our attic at our previous house - we had a lot of trees. I had a staring contest with one black squirrel who was annoyed that we had blocked up the entrance where she was getting into the attic.

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    1. Raccoons and squirrels are totally exotic to me. I didn't know squirrels broke into houses and claimed squatters rights as well as possums!

      The accidentally adding a gecko to dinner happened to neighbours of ours when we lived in Papua New Guinea. I must have been five or six, but it's stuck with me. The kettle thing happened to my sister last year. Put her off coffee for days. :)

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  2. Oh, Jen. Possums AND geckos? Twitching tails and splats? And yet, they are kind of cute.

    I live with one spoiled dog not much bigger than one of your possums. And I did have a small garter snake living under the front bay window for about six months, until the neighbor's cat killed it in the spring. :(

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    1. I figure if you have to live with lizards, at least geckos are a useful type.

      I would freak out about snakes though. Not a fan of snakes. My mother *thinks* she has moved on the tree snake living in her letter box, but that's the last time I check her mail for a while.

      It's completely irrational as well -- I know it's not venomous, but I'm scared of it anyway.

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  3. How big are these suckers? Wiki says they range from 1.6 to 60 cm, and I guess they can't be 60 cm if they fit in your fez, but maybe they could curl up or something.

    For wildlife here, there's the usual wild turkeys I give corn to, and the raccoon I give the willies whenever I walk by the window as he's trying to dislodge the hummingbird feeder.

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    1. My geckos, as far as I know, are the common Asian house gecko variety. They're only pretty small - Goliath is the biggest and he's about as long as a pen. The newly hatches one are tiny and see-through.

      I really really want a raccoon...even though every instinct in my body tells me it would be a nightmare of possum-proportions! Raccoons are cute. But nightmarish. But cute.

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    2. You know you’re in luck when the reptiles living with you are called house geckos, as if designed by God to live on your ceiling.

      And raccoons might look cute, but yes, they’re positively vicious. Imagine opening your door and seeing this most foul, cruel, and bad-tempered pack of beasties.


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    3. Awww! Is a hammock a standard measure of raccoons? Like a brace? I want them. Cuter than possums, but just as evil!

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  4. Jen, listen to maine character. Raccoons wear masks for a reason.

    We tend to mammals at our house: mice and bats, though a combination of cats and mint seems to have discouraged them.

    My mother is the one who gets lizards and snakes, and she lives just next door. It's like all the woodland creatures got together and divvied up the territory. She just caught and exiled her latest little garter snake this week.

    Marian Allen
    Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

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    1. You're the second person who has mentioned garter snakes... I assumed they were nonvenomous but wikipedia says otherwise!

      I'm scared of all snakes anyway, even nonvenomous snakes. I once had to phone a boy to come and remove a dead snake from my yard. (When it comes to snakes, I'll play the gender card.) And I knew it was dead, because it had no head. I still refused to go near it.

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  5. I don't share my life with any wildlife that I know of except maybe pigeons. And they shit on everything. Your talk on Gecko makes me think of Geico (the insurance company). Now that's brand marketing to the extreme!

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    1. I hate pigeons! I don't have any around my house, only mynah birds which apparently can be tamed and trained to speak, but who's got the energy for that? :)

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  6. I'm in Melbourne trying to identify the pair of tiny pink geckos I met on the laundry window the other (hot) night. According to my research the Asian House Gecko shouldn't be this far south but these little guys looked just like your picture - only pinker - and not Marbled Geckos at all (which you are supposed to find here). Given that Rainbow Lorikeets are originally a tropical bird not originally this far south but have been abundant here for at least the last 6 years - probably more like 10 years - it is plausible that this species of gecko can now be found here.

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  7. Okay I've done a bit more research and if my memory of their distinctly two padded toes is correct then it's the marbled gecko and everything is cool, literally. The Asian House gecko has very different feet - though I was sure the ones I saw had little skin spines which is another point of difference. I might be mistaken and it was markings that made it look that way.

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    1. From what I know of geckos, which isn't much, sometimes their markings can be less vivid if they live indoors not outdoors. I'm sure if the Asian gecko isn't that fat south it's only a matter of time! You'll probably get cane toads next. Merry Christmas!

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