Lizards, geckos and skinks…these cold-blooded reptiles could be one’s worst nightmare! However, the nature-enthusiastic staff at Tropical Spice Garden would be thrilled to spot any kind of creepy crawlies! This particular day, we were especially lucky to be able to observe a unique species of gecko – the Malayan Banded Gecko (Cyrtodactylus pulchellus).
C. pulchellus is also known as the Banded Bent-toed Gecko or the Malayan Forest Gecko and was named after the Latin phrase “pulchellis”, which means pretty! Well, we sure do agreeJ There is a distribution of 13 species of C. pulchellus complex range from southern Thailand through the Thai-Malay Peninsular to southern Peninsular Malaysia. The endemic C. pulchelluson Penang Island have been observed around Teluk Bahang, Botanical Gardens and Air Hitam.
This beautiful C. pulchellus in the garden was basking under the sun on a Heliconia plant. It was approximately 10cm in body length (snout to vent), with a tail length of 12cm. It has a unique coloration on its body, displaying a light chestnut-brown colour with light-edge dark brown cross bands from head to tail. It was quite docile and remained quiescently on the Heliconia leaf, which enabled us to get closer to this little cutie-pie!
There is a very little is known about the distribution and taxonomy of this complex in the northern and southeastern range of Peninsular Malaysia. Thus, we are very happy with the fact that our garden serves as a habitat for this rare gecko species, as this group’s local endemism is in hilly and mountainous areas where it is known to occur in West Malaysia. Also, there are several local researchers have been actively involve in the investigation of the least explored parts of West Malaysia, in order to discover the diversity of rare reptiles that are hidden silently in different layers of tropical rainforest.
Some people might find these creepy crawlies quite disturbing and the first action when encountering these creatures is to execute them. There are scenarios where we set up rodent traps such as glue boards to ensnare pests, yet regrettably caught the endangered reptiles instead. What’s worse is to hear about people finding these reptiles lingering around their gardens, and in their panic, killing the creatures – a highly undesirable consequence – without understanding the importance of them in the role of biological pest control and keeping the balance of the food chain intact.
In Tropical Spice Garden, all wildlife are allowed to comfortably survive in the hierarchy of nature as we practice the principle of protecting and conserving the species in the Garden through eco-tourism, education, and research. There is usually a higher chance in observing such nocturnal reptiles – and others such as snakes, lizards and other gecko species – during our Night Walks where our professional guides will explain the beauty and importance of these cold-blooded animals to the guests. Besides, our Nature Education facilitators respect every living creature in the garden, designing various educational activities with a syllabus that help children to understand and appreciate the humbler lives around them. Many Penangnites might not even stand a chance to witness some of the precious, endangered, rare wildlife around Penang, for instance our very own Malayan Banded Gecko Cyrtodactylus pulchellus.
If you are a reptile lover, make sure you do not miss the Night Walks in Tropical Spice Garden. Bring your enthusiasm and with a hearty serving of curiosity and join us for an interesting herping session in the Garden! Who knows, it might be your lucky night to spot a C. pulchellus this Halloween!
- Lee Grismer, Perry L. Wood, JR., Shahrul Anuar, Evan S. H. Quah, Mohd Abdul Muin, Maketab Mohamed, Chan Kin Onn, Alexandra X. Sumarli, Ariel I. Loredo & Heather M. Heinz. 2014. The phylogenetic relationships of three new species of the Cyrtodactylus pulchellus complex (Squamata: Gekkonidae) from poorly explored regions in northeastern Peninsular Malaysia. Zootaxa 3786 (3): 359-381.