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AFGHAN ARABIA WILD

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GECKOS OF AFGHANISTAN

BY JOHN M. REGAN

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With 900 - 1500 species worldwide (depending on the source consulted) it’s a small surprise that a substantial gecko population inhabits every continent outside of Antarctica. And with a climate very conducive to reptiles in general Afghanistan rates as one of the best countries in the world for the gecko enthusiast. I personally observed many dozens of them during my time over there. The Reptile Database lists 19 separate species in the country and many of these have habitats that sprawl from the Middle East into and beyond Pakistan.

 reganjm@northwestwildlifeonline.com

   SpannGecko Gecko by Tim Stone HescoGeckoCaveGecko

The highly adaptable gecko. I found the big eyed fellow on the left under the steps of my office in MazarESharriff. Tim Stone found the other one crouching on the ground outside of a building in Afghanistan. You'll find "Hesco Geckos" everywhere. The one on the far right was an unusually large gecko I found in a wadi cave in Saudi Arabia. Note the flat, lamella feet of that lizard.

So what is the secret to the widespread success of this relatively small (most less than 6 inches) reptile? To begin with that very small size is an excellent attribute for staying out of sight of predators. Couple this with their primarily nocturnal habits and you have a lizard that can stay tucked away in tiny crevices during the day and emerge later when many other likely predators such as birds have called it a day. Those large gecko eyes are ideally adapted for night vision as well.

Gecko toes, of course, are their most famous adaptation and have contributed greatly to their success. This is especially noticeable in Afghanistan. Population growth and the expansion of military activity normally has an adverse effect on wildlife. Not so with geckos. Small size, and affinity for darkness, and the ability to scale almost any surface makes this reptile very amenable to human habitations. Considering the restrictions on US personnel in the country it is probably the first reptile encountered over there. But don’t expect to see the famous ceiling walkers with their flat lamellae feet capable of clinging to a pain of glass. You are much more likely to see a gecko with very adept claws instead. After all, Afghanistan is primarily a land of rock.

Gecko Home 4 GeckoHome2 GeckoHome5

Where to find geckos in Afghanistan? In abandonded government building like the "King's Palace" in Darulaman; soldier billets and hesco barriers; desert ditches in Helmand. In short - just about everywhere.

But what makes a gecko a gecko? There is that unique “Gieco gecko” shape to begin with; the longish body and large head. Then there are the big gecko eyes. The majority of gecko species lack eyelids. The eyes are covered by a special kind of scale which the lizards keeps clean by using its tongue like a windshield wiper. The toes, as already discussed, are an obvious distinction. But the single greatest difference between geckos and other lizards is the gecko vocal ability – they can talk! Well, okay, it’s actually a kind of chirp, but they are the only lizard that has this ability.

So keep an eye out over there, especially at night, for a little reptile scaling the walls of your billets. But check out the dark corners and crevices of just about any building, particularly older ones, and I can almost guarantee you’ll find one of the Geckos of Afghanistan.

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AFGHAN ARABIA WILD

ARTICLES AND POSTS

 

WILDLIFE OF AFGHANISTAN   WILDLIFE OF SAUDI ARABIA  NORTHWEST WILDLIFE ONLINE

Saudi Arabian Wildlife  Afghanistan Wildlife