With monsoon just a few weeks away, it’s not just the human beings who are waiting to get drenched, but several animals too are gearing up to come out of their hibernation. It is that time of the year again when one can spot lizards everywhere — on trees, crawling on the floor or prancing around the walls.
Animal experts claim that the southern ridge is home to around a dozen species of lizards like Aravalli Hill Gecko, Bronze Grass Skink, Fringe Footed Lizard, Indian Leopard Gecko, Lacertid Lizard, Oriental garden lizard, House Gecko, Brook’s Gecko, desert monitor lizard, monitor lizard. Among these, monitor lizard is the largest of all. Three species of monitor lizards are found in southern ridge —yellow monitor lizard, desert lizard and Bengal monitor lizard.
Abhishek Narayanan, officer-in-charge, Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), who has been researching on lizards in Delhi for the last six years, said, “The yellow monitor lizard and desert monitor have been spotted in the last couple of years in Chattarpur and Bhatti Mines area while Bengal monitor lizard can be seen across Delhi.”
Monitor lizard are also native to Africa, Asia, Oceania and parts of America. They have long necks, powerful tails and claws, and well-developed limbs. The adult length of the extant species ranges from 3-4 feet.
Environmentalist and animal expert Surya Prakash, who has done extensive research on lizards found in the southern ridge for more than a decade now, said, “Monitor lizards have a very strong grip. Once while surveying in Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary, we saw some people trying to pull a monitor lizard through its tail which had taken shelter under a rock. But its grip was so strong that they could not move it an inch. That reminded me of Shivaji who scaled the wall of Sinhgarh fort in Maharashtra during his historic battle where he used ‘ghorpad’ (monitor lizard) to climb that huge wall. Even though it is not venomous, its bite can inflict serious injuries,” he said.
One of the most uncommonly found lizard in the southern ridge is the Indian leopard gecko also known as Eublepharis Macularius. It is a crepuscular lizard naturally found in the deserts of Asia as well as Pakistan and many parts of northern India. There have been only two sightings of leopard gecko — one in Aravalli Biodiversity Park in 2006 and another in Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary in 2015 in the past two decades, say experts.
Animal experts researching on the lizard have found that lizards found in houses or gardens are trying to adapt to the situation while the number of lizards that prefer a particular kind of habitat like forests or rocky areas is dwindling.
“While other lizards like Bengal monitor lizard and garden lizard are seen in abundance, the sightings of leopard gecko, yellow monitor and desert monitor (all dependent upon a particular kind of habitat) have been in single digit in the past five years,” said Narayanan.
These lizards need dry scrub lands with bushes while Delhi has seen excess concretisation in the recent years which is why their number is decreasing, he added.
During our survey, we also spotted Cyrtodactylus or Aravalli Hill gecko, which was last recorded in 1970 on JNU campus. It was sighted near the airport and in Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary, said Prakash.
The most commonly found lizards are the house lizard, Oriental garden lizard and skinks. House gecko is a native of Southeast Asia and are nocturnal, hiding during the day and foraging for insects at night. The Oriental garden lizards are also known as changeable lizards (Calotes Versicolor) due to their ability to change colours during the breeding season while skinks look roughly like true lizards, but most species have no pronounced neck and their legs are relatively smaller. Their movement resembles that of snakes more than that of lizards.