Sarasota News Leader

10/12/12

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ASK OTUS THIS GECKO PROVES FAR AFIELD FROM FINE WINE Dear Otus, Our grandson stayed with us in Sarasota over spring break. He and his friends went to a BBQ at a farm east of I-75. He said he saw a big lizard there in a tree hole. The lizard had yellow eyes and blue skin with orange polka dots all over it, and when it got dark the thing started barking. We found this a bit hard to digest, but he's sticking to what he saw. John is an honor student at I.U. and doesn't make up stories. Do you have any idea what it could have been that he says he saw? Thank you. Arthur and Ellen in Indianapolis Dear Arthur and Ellen, I commend John for his vivid and accurate description of a Tokay gecko (Gekko gecko). Yes, yet another exotic invasive and Florida non-friendly species of lizard. When I first learned of the presence of the To- kay gecko in Sarasota, the word "Tokay" made me giddy just imagining the heady aroma of that Hungarian dessert wine and I could ac- tually hear the gypsy guitars' plaintive invi- tation to dance by the campfire. But, back to reality! This gecko has nothing whatsoever to do with Hungary, fine wines or gypsy music. It is a large (up to 12 inches in length) lizard from Southeast Asia and its onomatopoet- ic name derives from the male's springtime A Tokay Gecko peers out from its hiding place at Selby Gardens. File photo FWC also reports, "A cornered gecko will of- ten aggressively bite an attacker and hold on tenaciously." That's an understatement! Even dealers in the exotic pet trade warn prospec- tive buyers that the Tokay gecko requires a ABOUT OTUS Otus Rufous, an Eastern Screech-Owl, was born on Sies- ta Key and is a full-time resident there. An avid hunter, accomplished vocalist and genuine night owl, Otus is a keen observer of our local wildlife and knows many of nature's secrets. Otus will answer your questions about our amazing wildlife, but only if you Ask Otus. So please send your questions and photos to askotus@sarasotanews- leader.com. Thank you. harsh-sounding mating call "to-kai, to-kai", which explains the "barking" noises John heard. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), the Tokay gecko established a breeding colony in Flor- ida as early as 1965. As it is primarily a noc- turnal lizard, very few people have seen it in the wild, which is why you did not recognize it from John's description. Here is a photo of one taken on the beautiful grounds of Marie Selby Botanical Gardens.

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