My wife and I were hiking through the jungle adjacent to Sakahang Lilok when our little baby Sophia decided to take a nap. To make her as comfortable as possible I found a shady spot with a good view of the massive trees above, and laid down for her to sleep.
For the first 45 minutes, I didn’t see anything to note. With the pleasant sounds of the waterfall and birds around me, I slowly scanned the branches of the trees with my eyes. Sometimes I just rested and enjoyed being in nature. It was a really calm, pleasant way to sit in the forest.
Then I saw it. An Emerald Tree Skink, making its way around a branch about 20 meters above the ground, inspecting the airplants for bugs to eat.
Can you find him? You might need to zoom in to see the little skink way up there.
This happens every time I sit in the forest down the hill from Lilok, where the trees are old and large. Usually it doesn’t take that long. Sit still and observe, and likely within 15 minutes or even just five you will see an Emerald Tree Skink or a Philippine Flying Dragon scampering along a tree trunk.
Some of the many Emerald Tree Skinks the author spotted around Lilok Farm
These skinks seem to prefer big trees, but you can find them in smaller ones too. One day Ryan, one of the Lilok staff, came to tell me he had seen something in one of the coconut palms next to the main Lilok building. We went over and he climbed up to the top of a coconut tree no more than 5-6 meters high. As he disturbed the coconuts, a frightened Emerald Tree Skink jumped out, fell to the ground, and scurried away.
Another day I was walking at the edge of the Rizal ReCreation Center when I heard something scratching around in a broken banana tree trunk. I peered into the trunk layers, and inside an Emerald Tree Skink was trying to hide from me. It was easy to fish him out and show him to Sophia.
Some people think that searching for wildlife means going as far as you can as fast as you can. But it can also be about simple patience – sitting in one place, quiet and observant, and seeing what God reveals.
Some more Emerald Tree Skinks from the Philippines
Where do they live?
The Emerald Tree Skink is found anywhere with tall trees. It prefers bare tree trunks with plenty of space to climb around, and will usually be at least 5 meters off the ground.
What do they eat?
They eat insects (perhaps Longhorn Beetles?) and other small animals.
Are they dangerous?
This skink is not dangerous.
Are they in danger?
The Emerald Tree Skink has a wide range and appears common in both disturbed and intact habitat. However, it could become rare in places where larger, older trees have been cut down.
What is their scientific name and classification?
The Emerald Tree Skink is scientifically known as Gonyosoma oxycephalum. It is a member of the skink family, which are a group of lizards that have smooth skin, long strong bodies, and are usually found on the ground. This is one of the few exceptions to that “on the ground” part!
Some Emerald Tree Skinks seen in other counties
As an experiment, take time to sit quietly for 30 minutes in one spot and just observe nature around you. What do you see in the trees? What do you see on the ground? Do you notice anything that you wouldn’t have seen otherwise?