A new lizard species at Dokmai Garden?
A terrarium enthusiast asked me why I do not catch any of the colorful lizards to keep in a terrarium? I replied all of Dokmai Garden is a terrarium, and the reptiles are good at looking after themselves. Dokmai Garden is blessed with ten species of wild snakes, eight species of wild amphibians, two species of turtles and hitherto six species of lizards, not counting the many skinks which is a future project when I find decent literature. These numbers of reptiles and amphibians are much more than in all of Sweden. Garden reptiles are all part of the insect, slug and rodent management and constitute another dimension in a monsoon garden. Without knowledge most people are afraid of reptiles, but with knowledge you will learn most of these species are harmless to you, they benefit your garden and they add more colours, shapes, sounds and action.
The endangered long-tailed lizard (Takydromus sexlineatus) is particularly active right now, and I can see it moon-walking on the tiles of the restaurant. The literature claims its long tail is an adaptation to tall grass. I may add that it seems to thrive very well at Dokmai Garden where we do not have much tall grass, but plenty of bamboo (a super tall grass), shrubs and lianas. I see some individuals with short tails, wondering if they are juveniles or if they are in the process of replacing lost tails?
In addition to the two most conspicuous agamid lizard species, the metallic blue Sapphire head (Calotes mystaceus) and the red garden fence lizard (Calotes versicolor), I believe we also have ‘the northern forest crested lizard’ (Calotes emma alticristatus). This new lizard comes in two forms: a granite grey mottled form with a striking crest and a tail with black crossbars, and a brown form with white stripes along the body. Both forms seem to have unusually long toes and they both run like mad and so I have not been able to take any pictures. The decisive character is the presence of spines behind the eye, something lacking in the other two species. I should be most happy if a visitor with a more modern camera than mine could take a picture of one of the two forms. The striped form resides in the orchid nursery in the afternoon (not in the mornings), probably to enjoy the moisture. The grey form runs around in the restaurant garden and seems hard to photograph.
I have also had reports of gliding lizards (Draco) from gardens some 10 km from here, and should be happy for more reports and preferably pictures.
A male garden fence lizard in its display form: puffed cheeks, black shoulder blotch, red t-shirt. Note the two characteristic spines above the ear, which looks like a membrane (tympanum). At Dokmai Garden this species is relaxed and not afraid of people. This is clearly an adaptation as they were very wary when we moved in a few years ago. I hope that with time the third agamid species will also realize we do not hunt it and it can relax more. It is likely it came to us last year during the heavy rains, and it stayed since the surrounding land is too dry.
Text & Photo: Eric Danell