Monday, March 29, 2010

Living With House Geckos - The Dark Side

With big, wide-set eyes, stubby little noses and adorable suctioned fingers, who wouldn't find the common house gecko insanely cute. In Tahiti they are omnipresent after dark, lingering on walls, munching pesky mosquitoes, stalking moths and making their soft monkey-with-hiccoughs calls. Many a tourist has become enamored of these seemingly peaceful critters and come home with a tattoo of one on their arm or derriere; ancient Polynesians included the small lizards in many legends.

But here's the truth: geckos have a dark side - a cavernous dark side. My love for them plummeted the moment I first saw a big gecko swallow a smaller one, the tail of the victim waving like a white flag until it disappeared down the bigger guy's gullet. I began to question my like for them when two fighting geckos fell on my face in the middle of the night while I was sleeping, scaring the living daylights out of me and smearing me with mushy battered lizard skin. Cleaning house I began to realize that the majority of the crud on the floor and windowsills is gecko poo. It's commonplace here to have gecko crap fall from the ceiling right into your drink or onto your forehead while watching a movie. Gecko pee pretty much sucks too - it's just a slight dribble that always lands on you as a surprise till you look up and see where it came from. I swear geckos get enjoyment out of their spectacular long-distance aim; I hear them laughing on the ceiling with their funny monkey chuckle.

The worst is what they do to appliances. Geckos have ruined several of my printers by climbing into them and dying. By the time they start to stink (and you'd be surprised how bad one little dead lizard can smell) the machine is jammed up beyond repair. Once a gecko climbed into our air-con unit and died, like geckos do, and we couldn't find the damned thing. We had to suffer stink in the office for a good two weeks. Luckily, the gecko eventually decomposed in the dry pumped out air and the air-con unit survived.

Sometimes I'll casually pull out a book from my bookshelf and a gecko springs out wildly into my lap. This wouldn't be so bad except that the friction of the book has usually removed most of the skin from the gecko's back, which makes him look like some raw, Golum-like beast. They get in the cereal, eat the tops off my ripe bananas and knock stuff over while we're sleeping and wake us up.

It sounds like I must hate geckos by now but really I don't. I admit to enjoying it more than I should when the cat catches them, but overall I think the guys have spunk. It's enthralling watching them hunt bugs (or each other), moving so slowly it's imperceptible except for their tails that swirl like a lion's on the prowl. I like that they can still throw off the cat with the 'ole eject-the-tail trick and I appreciate that they eat so many insects. Every now and then I find a tiny baby gecko and think he's so cute that I try to save him from the harsh gecko world by moving him to a spot in the house where I know the big guys, who would want to eat him, don't hang out. Yes, geckos are a pain but they are also a constant source of entertainment and give our household more depth of character. We have spent many an evening getting entertained by the cat trying to jump up the walls to catch them. My son has raised geckos in a giant fish tank, has incubated their eggs and it's become a nightime family sport to scamper around lightbulbs catching bugs for our reptilian pets.

To close, here's my favorite gecko love story via a Thai commercial for ceiling boards - you might need a hanky.

The opening gecko photo on this post is by my talented photographer friend Vincent Devert


  1. Holy crud.

    I concur. This post has shown me the light. I've had fond memories of them from growing up in Cyprus, especially the one that was perched on my nose when I woke up one day, following which we had a short but memorable cross-eyed staring contest. (Well, I was cross-eyed, he just stared at the bridge of my nose).

    ...but I've always suspected that these memories were too rose-tinted. Geckos mouldering inside printers. *shudder* My tinted specs are now off.

    Still miss 'em, though. British mosquitos are a poor alternative.

  2. Sorry to burst your bubble Mike! They really don't seem pesky till you're old enough to be bothered about cleaning up after them and have worked hard to pay for all the stuff they break. I think you can keep your childhood memories rose colored even without the glasses :-)

  3. Wow, vastly different from my field mice, barn cats and garden snakes. Somehow your house pests just seem more romantic and exotic than mine, but even Eden had a snake.

    Congrats on Bloggy Mom of the Month!

  4. Lanita my kids would think your house pets are way more exotic. My son dreams of owning a snake but alas (and good news for me) they are illegal here. Oh and we have mice and mangy cats here too :-)

  5. Since I have a leopard gecko and a corn snake in the living room, I can give an unbiased scientific conclusion: geckos are a bit smellier, possibly because they poop more often than a snake.

  6. Had a couple of giant geckos living behind my bookshelves in Indonesia. Liked the idea they sat there sticking out their tongues taking in insects. Till they opened their mouths to make their cute gecko call.. about 5 times in the middle of the night. Perhaps they were truly gigantic. Or maybe it was the fact that the space between the back of the shelves and the wall amplified their call. It seriously interfered with our night's rest so they had to go. Landlord made sure a friend caught them ("gecko wisperer")... and sold them to someone making astma medicine.

  7. They have some different kinds of geckos in Southeast Asia that are huge and really loud so maybe that's what you had behind your book shelves. Some are really beautiful - often speckled with big spooky eyes - but, yes, probably even more of a pain to have living in your house!



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