Many Jamaicans, especially women, it appears, are terrified of lizards: my teenage daughter can barely get out of the car if there’s a gecko on the garage wall, way up high, and looking the other way.
Yesterday, around midday, as I was enjoying some pre-curfew leisure in my yard on a really hot Easter Sunday, I was strolling just to get in a few more steps, when I glimpsed a movement in the bushes. As I waited to see better, I caught sight of a ground lizard (ameiva dorsalis). Usually, I have my mobile phone in hand, but didn’t just then but ran in hoping I could catch my subject. Seconds later, the lizard was still there, so I had the video ready and started recording, then took a still image.It’s a fine specimen, and its distinctive colour is something I recall from when I a small boy. But, the numbers have dwindled, dramatically, with urbanization and the impact of predators or humans hell-bent on killing an animal that’s more of an asset than a threat. A sad reality of life is that humans are not very good stewards of the Earth; we’ve seen what that means in terms of big global issues such as ‘climate change’. But, humans are less concerned about the preservation of other species, except where sometimes when they represent prime sources of food. So, the fact that the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (established in 1964) has a Red List of Threatened Species, which has evolved to become the world’s most comprehensive information source on the global extinction-risk status of animal, fungus and plant species is likely to get a ho-hum from most people. But, note that the ground lizard is an ENDANGERED SPECIES. Jamaicans are especially bad at looking after their own fauna and flora, but sometimes quick to lament how bad things are in general with their natural environment. Now, the ground lizard has natural predators in the mongoose, introduced into Jamaica the in the late-19th century to deal with snakes in corn fields, but having done that job, found they had few natural predators to fear on the island, and happily fed on animals like rats and lizards. The mongoose also loves fruit like mangoes, bananas, ackees and avocados. That’s not atypical of many solutions humans offer–invasive species take over and native species diminish or disappear. The giant galliwasp is feared extinct. Jamaicans (especially women) have an almost visceral fear of lizards, no matter how often they are told that lizards have no interest in humans, and thoughts of their chasing people are all in the mind. If anything, Jamaicans ought to be looking to rid themselves of the mongoose. But, why let common sense get in the way? So, I am no one-man preservation society, but I will try to protect this lizard I’ve found. I’m not sure it’s the same one I saw a week ago, but I’ve seen a baby since, so we may have a family in-house. I think this lizard only lays one egg at a time, so the baby may be the only one around. If any more news is worth sharing, I’ll keep you posted.