Covert Critters: Your Allies in the Garden. Part 2 - Lizards
After looking at Snakes in Part 1 we take a look at some other reptiles found in the Cape Town garden - the lizards.
Lizards are a large group of reptiles comprising over 3800 species and found on all continents except, not surprisingly, Antartica.
Like snakes, lizards are cold-blooded animals. They are unable to regulate their body temperature the same way mammals do, and rely on warming up by sunning themselves or resting on warm surfaces like rocks and paving. They cool themsleves by burrowing in the soil or hiding in the shade or beneath rocks.
Lizards reproduce sexually and the females lay eggs, which most species abandon, allowing the newly emerged baby lizards to fend for themselves. Lizards grow by shedding their outer skin periodically with the skin coming off in large sections.
Being carnivorous, lizards help keep pest populations in the garden down and so are a real asset to have around the home.
Cape skinks (Trachylepis capensis) are common, gentle creatures that hunt large insects. Sometimes they dig in loose sand around the base of bushes or boulders, and they also favor dead trees and old aloe stems. These useful creatures tame easily (with a tendency to become obese), and would be much more common in gardens if they were not hunted by domestic cats. You can find them in gardens, strategically positioned in the sun, from where they catch their preferred prey, such as beetles, flies and grasshoppers. They are completely harmless and shed their tails when they feel threatened.
Cape legless skinks (Acontias meleagris) are lizards that have lost their limbs completely, and because of this they are often mistaken for snakes and killed. They can be identified as lizards by their functional eyelids and unlike snakes they can blink. These skinks live underground and burrow to find the invertebrates they prey on, which includes earthworms, termites, spiders, beetle larvae and centipedes. They are also completely harmless, and are mostly only found when rocks or logs are lifted or moved.
Marbled leaf-toed geckos (Afrogecko porphyreus) are common in houses in Cape Town and often seen around outdoor lights feeding on insects. They live in varied habitats including buildings, rock cracks, under the bark of dead trees or in rotting logs. These little creatures help control termites and other small insects around the house and in the garden, and are completely harmless to humans and pets.