THE LIZARD AND THE WALL

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Leaving my house I came upon a strange scene. This brilliantly green skinny lizard was running on two legs across the street. Its body was maybe 15 cm, but its tail was at least twice that long- maybe even three times as long as its body. It was a Basilisk known as the Casquehead Iguana (Laemanctus serratus), but I had never seen one quite that beautiful. But what really startled me, was its behaviour. When it reached my side of the street, it lept against the neighbors new wall in a frantic attempt to clear it. It missed by about two and half meters, and desperately tried to climb the rest of the way, but the flat smooth surface would not allow it. It fell to the floor, backed up about half a meter, and looked out at the wall with what I can only interpret as frustration and disbelief. It gazed up and to the sides, as if trying to understand how to solve such a problem. Then it went back across the street, took a running start and threw itself against the wall again. This went on several times, until I decided I should go back inside to get the camera.

When I came back out, two older ladies were enjoying the same show I had just moments earlier. But when I approached with the camera, the lizard fled into some bushes. I can´t explain it, but I am convinced that birds and fish know when I am carrying a camera, and now apparently this reptile also shares this ability. The ladies went on their way, and I foolishly set out to find a green lizard amid green bushes. To my surprise, I found the creature rather quickly, and it even allowed me to take its picture. I was able to get quite close. I snapped a few shots, then simply watched it for a while.

tolok1_FotorI could not help asking myself what it was this lizard wanted from the other side of that wall. Construction began a couple of months ago on what had been an empty lot. The wall itself is a couple weeks old, but it was only plastered over a couple days ago. I suspect that before it was smoothed out, it was still climbable. The animal is obviously frustrated. I have no idea how Basilisks live- whether it may have left a family on the other side, or simply a favorite source of food. Perhaps on the other side is a crevice it calls home. It is impossible to know what that wall has taken from this creature.

Previously I had wondered at the absurdity of the hieght of my new neighbors walls. They are at least a meter taller than the fence which used to separate us. But now I realize for the first time the impact our walls have on all the crawling creatures. Fences at least allow for the transit of some creatures- lizards, squirrels, beetles, etc… But these smooth high walls, impossible to climb, exile forever those creatures left outside, and imprison those left in.

And I have to ask, with what right do we interrupt, upset and put an end to so many lives when we take possession of a piece of land? I’m not saying we should all live outdoors. Obviously there is nothing wrong with building houses. But, shouldn’t we at the very least be aware of the impact we have on other living beings? And after such a reckoning, why not try to minimize the nuisance we cause our non-human neighbors? Why not leave an opening of a few inches at ground level to allow these critters to move freely? How would that inconvenience us? What need to we have for walls that are impenetrable even to lizards? And why not leave more trees and shrubs? Why cut every green thing down only to replace it with lawns and nursery-bought plants? Would it not be better to simply appreciate what is already there, and make an effort to get to know it?

I’ve never seen a lizard quite like this one. And I somehow doubt I will again. But more importantly, I doubt I shall forget it.

tolok2_Fotor

 

David Nuñez is a biologist, photographer and author of    several wildlife guidebooks, as well as a founding member of   Mexiconservación.

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