Living with lizards

Residing opposite a national park results in lots of visits from wildlife. Monitors, dragons and skinks occasionally appear in our yard, and some even decide to join us indoors. Pink-tongued Skinks are like Houdini lizards: agile climbers, they seem to be able to find ways of getting inside the house despite fly screens and other barriers.

Pink Tongued Skink
Bearded Dragon

Some years ago, we had a Bearded Dragon living in the yard. Docile and hospitable, he would watch we hominids with a wary eye as we went about our business. But the arrival of a local cat appears to have resulted in his demise. Same goes for a whole bevy of baby Eastern Water Dragons, though I still see fully grown specimens from time to time.

Water Dragon

Thanks to the obsession we modern humans have with keeping cats and dogs, plus the introduction of foxes into every environment imaginable, our lizards have much to contend with. 

Beautiful Southern Spotted Velvet Geckos share our home on a permanent basis. These are bigger than the more common, introduced Asian House Gecko. They are also prettier, and thankfully, less vocal. We have lived with Velvet Geckos in the house for over 20 years, and it was only recently that we experienced a pair yelling at one another. Most of the time they’re extremely quiet houseguests. They seem to keep the Asian House Geckos out of the house interior. Presumably because they eat them.

Southern Spotted Velvet Gecko

Being nocturnal, our Velvet Geckos wait patiently behind bookcases and paintings for we hominids to go to bed each night. There are times when we stay up a bit later than usual, and I imagine them getting frustrated as they wait for the lights to go out. (I also imagine them partying when we go away.)

If one turns on a light in the middle of the night, the geckos freeze. That’s their only defence mechanism. In their natural environment – rocky outcrops in forests – such a strategy no doubt keeps them camouflaged. Less so on our timber floors and white walls. 

I once dropped a cockroach in front of a motionless Velvet Gecko. It immediately leapt forward and gobbled down the insect. Plainly hunger trumps fear. It then did what most geckos do after a meal and cleaned its face, including eyes, with its tongue. Our Spotted Velvet Geckos have become fierce cockroach hunters, so their excrement on the walls is a small price to pay for the service they provide.

With thousands of tiny hair-like structures, called setae, on their toes, geckos are excellent climbers and happily run across walls. However, those setae cannot get a purchase on the steep sides of a steel kitchen sink. Every so often, a Velvet Gecko ends up in the sink and needs to be rescued. Apart from that, they have adapted well to their artificial environment, where we provide cockroaches, and they are protected from the many predators that roam outdoors. I like to think of our relationship with these tiny housemates as symbiotic. These charming geckos can reportedly live for twenty years. 

Anyway, the point is that humans and lizards have been coexisting for millennia, in caves, huts and now cities. Indeed, here in Australia, large lizards – such as Water Dragons and Blue Tongues – live happily in our urban environments, even city centres. Watching dragons go about their daily business in busy cafes, from Brisbane’s Southbank to Cooroy’s Little Shop of Soul, is always a treat. Such cooperative cohabitation should not be taken for granted.

Tony Wellington

Writer & Photographer

Former Mayor of Noosa, author, photographer, artist, film-maker, lecturer, musician, social commentator and environmentalist. Welcome to Tony’s stunning view of what makes Noosa special.

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