As residents in a 'rural' area, we invariably need to protect our living space against 'invaders' that would otherwise threaten our health and property. We spray for mosquitoes and plant 'pests', trap for rats and mice, throw poison around for cockroaches, ants and termites in an unending battle against the 'attackers'. Many people bare the area around their dwellings in the hope that such a hostile environment will deter the 'ground army'.
Growing up in this life-style produces perceptions which are not assisted by uninformed and exaggerated advertising in the media. We develop attitudes that are intolerant of any other forms of life in or around our dwelling space. We fail to see the necessity of the intricate, life sustaining systems around us.Our quest for neatness and order is often tainted by our wish to 'impress' others. We whisk away every spider web and knock down any mud-wasp nests (and sometimes swallow nests) that dare 'dirty' our buildings.
As opposed to snakes, 'lizards' have eye lids, even if they don't have very obvious legs, and none of the southern African species are venomous. They are all fascinating and beneficial creatures to have around. The 'skinks' and 'geckos' all lose their tails easily if 'attacked', as a distraction to predators.
The tails re-grow in time but the secondary tails are always more 'stumpy'. 'Lizards' with 'electric'- blue tails sunning or racing around the stone patio. These are the immature and females of the 'rainbow skinks - Mabuya quinquetaeniata - the adult males of which have reddish tails. The plainer coloured 'skinks', more commonly seen around buildings, taking refuge under pot plants or verandah furniture are 'striped skinks' - Mabuya striata.Many other species prefer the more natural habitat of rockeries and sandy areas. Generally speaking, all the smooth scaled lizards with developed legs are 'skinks' while the rougher scaled ones are termed 'lizards'. 'Sand lizards' of the latter group can often be seen lifting their feet alternately to cool them from the hot ground.Their young are black and white and hobble around with hunched backs to imitate 'poisonous' 'ground beetles' as a defence against predators. The large (20 - 25 cm) 'bloukop' - blue headed tree agamas - Agama atricollis - are 'lizards' that are often observed on tree trunks.The agamas are rough scaled and have large heads. The males of the tree agama have blue heads which they frequently bob up and down while signalling to each other. They are restricted to the northern bushveld and eastern lowveld areas while the smaller, plain coloured, ground Agamas - Agama aculeata - are more wide spread over most of South Africa.The tree agamas, like certain other 'lizards', become highly territorial resulting in chases and displays between competitors. The 'nocturnal' lizards that one may encounter in and around buildings will inevitably be species of gecko. The diurnal species are rarely active at night time. All geckos are very useful and voracious insect eaters.They have specialised feet with scales and minute hairs arranged in rows or paired pads called 'scansors' which allow them to walk upside down and on seemingly smooth surfaces. They will not fall on you unless 'attacked'. The gecko most commonly seen in rest huts and other buildings is the medium sized tropical house gecko - Hemidactylus mabouia - which is a pan-tropical species.It is a highly successful species which competes with our other indigenous species for available food. They often make a 'tik-tik-tiking' sound and vary from light to dark grey in colour - some appearing almost transparent. Wide spread but not as common as the house gecko is the cape gecko - Pachydactylus capensis - which prefers more natural habitat.The large, robust, rough-scaled gecko, often encountered in houses is the wide spread Bibron's gecko - Pachydactylus bibronii - which is powerful enough to make short work of even large moths and beetles.
To experience the peace and contentment of a diverse, balanced and interesting environment, one must accept the equal right of all other species to exist and function naturally. Counteract your own excesses and disturbances.
Withdraw from being over fastidious while maintaining your own, rightful place in the 'natural' community of life. Concentrate less on how 'clean' you are on the outside and more on how 'clean' you are on the inside - in your soul. Only then will you realise the true happiness and contentment of a quality environment.