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Norwich Bulletin - 8/14/2005

Geico Or Gecko?

That cute little dancing lizard we all know and love in the Geico Insurance Company ads, always makes me smile. While I have never been a huge fan of lizards in general, I always thought he was rather cute. I once had an Iguana for a couple of years because of my youngest daughter, but that is the extent of my lizard experiences.

So I was fascinated when I got to know a work associate who had lizard and birds as pets, because of her allergies to furred animals. Since she is especially fond of her three Leopard Geckos, I decided to do some research on Geckos in general.

A diverse and adaptable group of lizards, Geckos exist in many types of habitats around the world, ranging from the deserts to the green forests. There are many different types of Geckos, some of them quite dazzling and all unique in their own ways. One type of Gecko is the Leopard Gecko.

These little lizards natural habitat is Pakistan, India and Afghanistan. The air is dry and the countryside rocky. Leopard Geckos rarely climb trees and when they do, they generally do not do it well as they do not have sticky feet, which people generally think all Geckos have. They live on and under the ground and like rocky areas.

They have a large tail, in which they are able to store fat, so if in the wild, they have lean times and cannot find food, the fat storage system will keep them alive. A healthy leopard gecko has a heavy, chunky tail. Their skin is heavily patterned, spotted in different shapes, which helps conceal them from their enemies. The skin texture is bumpy and the colors and patterns are varied and unusual. Even the dullest of leopard geckos are pleasing to the eye.

The adaptability of this little lizard makes them very suitable for captivity. They are hardy, gentle and attractive, even for mothers who have aversion to lizards in general. They are often referred to as the perfect reptile pet.

I am told there are more and more people interested in keeping lizards as pets, and if that is true, the smaller lizards have several advantages which make them ideal to keep in the home. They have minimum care requirements, and, unlike dogs and cats, can be left alone for a weekend without the need for someone to come in and care for them.

You can put your lights on timers and leave plenty of water and food items for a couple of days. They do not need attention or affection to thrive. They are quiet and they do not smell. And they are perfect pets for people with allergies.

Leopard Geckos are particularly a good choice because they are easily available and they are widely bred in captivity. This means that you eliminate the health and environmental concerns caused by getting a lizard from the wilds. They are good size in that a typical adult averages about eight inches in length, which allows for easy handling: not too big, not too small.

So if your looking for a lizard, a Leopard Gecko seems like a reasonable choice. It is also important for you to plan on getting all the necessary supplies and setting it up before you bring your reptile friend home for the first time. Plan on spending about $100 to outfit the perfect digs for your lizard.

A cage or enclosure, equivalent to a ten gallon aquarium; substrate (the stuff that goes on the bottom of the cage), a heat source, thermometer, food and water dishes, a cage cover, things for your lizard to climb on and hide under (at least two hiding places) and insects. Of course, you can spend much more on your Gecko's new digs, I am just listing the necessary minimum.

Once it all set up then it is time to pick out your healthy little lizard. This is the fun part. You will get to see lots of different Geckos of all different sizes, ages, colors and personalities. Take your time and use the good health tips - a head to toe check is in order for things like, dirty skin, lumps or bumps under the skin, burns, soft stool, skinny tail, sunken eyes, emaciated body - all of these are great big warning signs that the little guy is not healthy and should not be going home with you.

In this world of the internet, there are lots of good sources for you to check before you rush out to buy a Leopard Gecko. Log onto www.anapsid.org/leaopardgek.html or www.drgecko.com. Through these two websites you can find other links and chat rooms and all types of information that will help you make intelligent and informed choices on purchasing a lizard.

There are also books available for non internet people and one of the best and easiest to understand is - Leopard Geckos for Dummies. It was actually one of the books I read before writing this column!

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