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  • Chris @ ZooLab

Natureman Talks Unusual Reptile Encounters

My rainforest trips are often dominated by the search for reptiles - usually of the venomous variety. There have been many times when I've encountered species that were simply unexpected and particularly unusual.

The Draco Lizard

Exploring the depths of the Sumatran rainforest, I was looking for the rare and endangered Sumatran Orangutan. A few hours into the trek, I was making my way up the side of a mountain. It seemed like a good health 'primary forest' (the trees had been there a long time, were well spaced and not much shrubbery at floor level). I suddenly spotted a small rusty red bird swoop from one tree trunk to another. Assuming it was a species of tropical tree creeper, I waited to see where it went next. Nothing! I took a step. A stick snapped under my feet, and knowing this would probably flush out the bird, I fixed my gaze back on the branch, and sure enough, I saw that rusty red flash shoot to another tree. This time I got a better look. I didn't see wings flapping; I just saw a flash of colour and where it landed.

I crept closer to the spot to see a tiny lizard hanging on the bark. I couldn't believe what I saw - it was a Draco lizard! Famous for its gliding ability, this small lizard is often found high up in the canopy. When threatened, it will launch itself into the air and then use its elongated ribs to push folds of skin from its flanks and form a large pair of gliding wings, allowing it to travel long distances and avoid predation.

Sadly, I couldn't photograph this unique species, but it will always be one of the most unusual reptiles I've ever encountered.