Philippine Spiny Stream Skink

One day late in my stay in Tanay I took a rare excursion off the trail and went looking for wildlife in one of the deepest, wildest areas, down near the stream where vegetation was relatively thick and the debris of the forest settled around the ground.

Hunting in that area I came across one of the neatest reptiles I’ve ever seen – the Philippines Spiny Stream Skink!

The Philippines Spiny Stream Skink is part of a unique group of lizards called “stream skinks” which like to spend time in water as well as land. But the Spiny Stream Skink is doubly unique due to the hard spiky scales that line its body as a defense against predators.

Tropidophorus grayi philippines spiny stream skink rizal tanay waterside skink

I let the lizard go and continued searching the forest, and just a few minutes later came across a second one. Look at those spikes! If you were a small animal searching for a lizard meal you wouldn’t want to mess with those. 🙂

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The Little Geckos in Houses (butiki)

Geckos photographed at the Rizal ReCreation Center. Clockwise from top left they are a Flat-tailed House Gecko, Mourning Gecko, Common House Gecko, and Four-clawed Gecko
Four different geckos photographed at the Rizal ReCreation Center. Clockwise from top left are Flat-tailed House Gecko, Mourning Gecko, Common House Gecko, and Four-clawed Gecko

If you leave a light on and watch the moths, pretty soon some geckos, or “butiki”, will end up creeping up near the light to snatch some of the moths flying around it. These gobbling geckos help control insects in the farm.

Geckos are great friends with which to share our homes and forests. Despite some silly rumors, geckos are completely harmless to people – they’re only dangerous to those insect guests that we sometimes wish would stay outside! In our area we have many different kinds of geckos. I’m going to focus on the four small ones, the little butiki, that you’ll see on the walls of buildings in Lilok and other homes. (I already talked about the big one, the tuko, in an earlier post.)

Four-clawed Gecko

Four-clawed Gecko - Gehyra mutilata stump-toed gecko philippines
Four-clawed Gecko in Batangas (© Tony Gerard)

The Four-clawed Gecko, also known as the Stump-toed Gecko, is the most common gecko at Lilok Farm. You can see them running around the dining hall, sometimes on the walls and sometimes on the ground.

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Emerald Tree Skink

Emerald Tree Skink in Mindanao, ZooKeys 624, (Rafe Brown / CC BY)

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.

looking for herps with my baby in rizal tanay phillippines

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.

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Marbled Water Monitor

Marbled Water Monitor Varanus marmoratus carmelo lopez tanay epic park rizal
Marbled Water Monitor spotted in Tanay Epic Park (© Carmelo Lopez)

A couple of years ago the director of Sakahang Lilok asked me to give a talk on snakes and farming. The night before the event I went looking around the farm for a snake to use in the demonstration. Next to the farm’s main building I lifted the cover to a rain collection drain, and instead of seeing a snake, I found a young water monitor!!!

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Green Crested Lizard

Green Crested Lizard - Bronchocela cristatella laguna philippines near manila
Male Green Crested Lizard on branch at night at the Rizal ReCreation Center

One of the neatest lizards at Lilok Farm is one of the most difficult to find. Way up in the treetops, crawling around branches with a body as green as the leaves, is the Green Crested Lizard.

The beautiful color of this lizard is what we call “camouflage”. Camouflage is any coloration that makes it more difficult for the animal to be seen – in this case, by blending into its forest environment.

These lizards are active during the day, but their home high in the trees and the well-camouflaged green body make them so difficult to find in the daytime. Instead, I tend to see them at night, when they come down a little lower to sleep and their bodies light up in the beam of the flashlight.

One neat thing about Green Crested Lizards is that despite their name, they’re not always green. When stressed or threatened, they will change color to a dark brown!

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