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Doi Suthep

During one visit to Thailand, I got to spend several weeks in Chiang Mai at the tail end of the rainy season. Doi Suthep/Doi Pui National Park is on the edge of Chiang Mai within easy biking range, so I made four trips up the mountain to see what I could see. My big goal was to find the Crocodile Salamander, Thailand’s only salamander species. Unfortunately, I never could catch a rainstorm (I stayed 10+ km from the mountain and it’s impossible to guess when and where the rain will hit) and never found a breeding pool. Still, I saw some cool species up there.

Chiang Mai is at an elevation of about 1,000 feet, while Doi Pui peaks out at close to 5,500 feet. That meant some abrupt habitat differences in only a space of 10-20 kilometers. On my very first trip up the mountain, I saw an interesting lizard in the undergrowth:

I snagged it and saw that it was a cool species that doesn’t show up at the lower elevations:

Rough-bellied Mountain Dragon Acanthosaura lepidogaster)

Rough-bellied Mountain Dragon Acanthosaura lepidogaster

Cuvier’s Spiny Lizard Acanthosaura lepidogaster head shot

This first one was a strikingly colored male, but I later would see many somewhat drab females

Rough-bellied Mountain Dragon Acanthosaura lepidogaster

and juveniles.

Rough-bellied Mountain Dragon Acanthosaura lepidogaster juvenile

On that first trip it took only a few minutes to find my first snake.

Green Keelback (Rhabdophis nigrocinctus)

Green Keelback Rhabdophis nigrocinctus

Green Keelback Rhabdophis nigrocinctus

At this time of year the forest could be quite misty and the undergrowth was often moist. Several small species of frogs could be found hopping around on the ground.

Dwarf Bush Frog (Philautus parvulus)

Dwarf Bush Frog Philautus parvulus

Dwarf Bush Frog Philautus parvulus

Dwarf Bush Frog Philautus parvulus

Limborg’s Frog (Limnonectes limborgi)

Limborg's Frog Limnonectus limborgi

Dwarf Bush Frog Philautus parvulus

Several times on the mountain I ran into a small skink species that I never found at lower elevations:

Reeve’s Smooth Skink (Scinella reeversi)

Reeves's Smooth Skink Scincella reevesii

Reeves's Ground Skink Scincella reevesii

Reeves's Smooth Skink Scincella reevesii

On my second trip up the mountain I explored a different trail. Again, it only took a few minutes before our first snake sighting. This was a really, really funny-looking snake, with a heavy body and a tiny narrowing head. I didn’t get the best pictures because it was moving through vegetation and I didn’t have a clue what it was. My wife didn’t want me to touch it if I couldn’t ID it, and even though it looked quite non-venomous, that was probably good advice. I looked it up afterwards and found it to be a quite harmless diurnal earthworm eater.

Assam Mountain Snake (Plagiopholis nuchalis)

Assam Mountain Snake Plagiopholis nuchalis

Assamese Mountain Snake Plagiopholis nuchalis head shot

On that hike we got to a waterfall

And found this pretty little frog hanging out below it.

Marbled Sucker Frog (Amolops marmoratus)

Marbled Sucker Frog Amolops marmoratus

Northern Cascade Frog Amolops marmoratus

At a much lower elevation, I found several frogs near the side of a stream. They were so well-camouflaged that I couldn’t spot them before they jumped into the water, but I got lucky and flipped one under a rock:

Taylor’s Stream Frog (Limnonectes taylori)

Taylor's Steam Frog Limnonectes taylori head shot

Taylor's Steam Frog Limnonectes taylori

Very close was a common Thai species, though this one was especially obese:

Common Indian Toad (Duttaphrynus melanostictus)

My third trip up I checked out an area where several park employees had told me the “salamanders” could be found. The spot was a beautiful waterfall:

I found that they were somewhat mistaken – what actually lived in the area was semi-aquatic skinks! They appeared to predominantly focus on the habitat niche around and under rocks in the splash zone of a waterfall, often fully underwater. Their population density was very high.

Berdmore’s Water Skinks (Tropidophorus berdmore)

Berdmore's Water Skink Tropidophorus berdmore

Berdmore's Water Skink Tropidophorus berdmore

Berdmore's Stream Skink Tropidophorus berdmore water

There were two poking out from the rocks here – I didn’t see the second one until I took the photo:

Some other tourists taking a look:

On a trail close to the waterfall I caught this terrestrial skink

Speckled Forest Skink (Eutropis macularia)

Speckled Forest Skink Eutropis macularia Chiang Mai

On my fourth and final trip I decided to try to summit the mountain on my bike. About halfway up I heard a noise to the side. I jumped out and spotted a large snake, but it disappeared into a rock wall before I could get an ID. Unfortunately, that was the herping highlight of the day. The summit was much cooler than I expected (and wore me out much more) and the only live reptile I found up there was a skink. I did see about half-a-dozen dead reptiles on the road, including an Assam Mountain Snake, a Yellow-spotted Keelback, a kukri snake, a Tokay Gecko, and a few I couldn’t identify.

hill tribe village from very high up:

Near the summit there are lots of conifers, which feels strange in Thailand

Finally, throwing them all at the end so you can skip down if you want, here are a few invertebrates from the mountain:

Big millipede gnawing on me

A large flatworm species crossing the trail out in the open

An awesome beetle my wife accidentally hit when it landed on her leg

A very large harvester

damselflies

small scorpion

Large spider found under cover

And finally, a few beautiful butterflies

 
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Posted by on December 16, 2014 in Herping adventures

 

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Image

A little night walk in Bangkapi

After seven months in Bangkok I moved out near Bangkapi. I wouldn’t call Bangkapi a “natural” area, but I did my best to see what I could find. One night I got my flashlight and my camera and I took a walk.

Right next to my apartment building was an empty lot full of water puddles. In the puddles were dozens of Round-tongued Floating Frogs. This is the best spot I’ve found in Bangkok for them:

Round-tongued Floating Frog Occidozyga martensii

Round-tongued Floating Frog Occidozyga martensii

Round-tongued Floating Frog (Occidozyga martensii)

Also common in the puddles were the Green Paddy Frog

Green Paddy Frog Hylarana erythraea

Green Paddy Frog  Hylarana erythraea

Near those puddles was a motorcycle parking lot, and this juvenile Red-tailed Pipe Snake was moving right through the dirt lot at night.

Red-tailed Pipe Snake Cylindrophis ruffus

Red-tailed Pipe Snake Cylindrophis ruffus

The habitat it was found in:

Some Asian Grass Frogs were mating in a temporary puddle in full view of everyone on the street

Asian Grass Frog Fejervarya limnocharis

On the street were also Common Indian Toads

Common Indian Toad Duttaphrynus melanostictus

and Asian Painted Frogs. I found this one by finding the source of some extremely loud calls. These frogs sound like a bull.

Asian Painted Frog Kaloula pulchra

I like this shot of a different one – it was in a tree on the main road with no obvious habitat nearby.

Asian Painted Frog Kaloula pulchra

Near a larger pond were these Darkside Narrowmouth Frogs. They were the first ones I’d found in Bangkok.

Darkside Narrowmouth Frog Microhyla heymonsi

Darkside Narrowmouth Frog (Microhyla heymonsi)

Darkside Narrowmouth Frog Microhyla heymonsi

I also saw a number of lizard species, such as this juvenile Tokay Gecko,

Tokay Gecko Gekko gecko

Spiny-tailed House Geckos crawling on trees at night,

 Spiny-tailed House Gecko Hemidactylus frenatus

 Spiny-tailed House Gecko Hemidactylus frenatus

and a sleeping Oriental Garden Lizard that I accidentally woke up.

Oriental Garden Lizard Calotes versicolor

Some of my neighbors told me that Bangkapi was a jungle before it got developed. It is sad that what must have been a beautiful natural area has been wiped out by malls and concrete and apartment buildings. But as my night with a flashlight showed, even developed areas can still hold strong wildlife diversity, as long as the pollution stays down and they still have a few little wild lots to call home.

 
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Posted by on April 9, 2014 in Herping adventures

 

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Agamids outside of Bangkok

Several other Agamid species can be found in Thailand outside of Bangkok. They include:

Green Crested Lizard
P1020563

Forest Crested Lizard
Emma Gray's Forest Lizard Calotes emma

Rough-bellied Mountain Dragon
Rough-bellied Mountain Dragon Acanthosaura lepidogaster

Burmese False Bloodsucker
Burmese False Bloodsucker Pseudocalotes microlepis

Indo-Chinese Water Dragon
Indo-Chinese Water Dragon Physignathus cocincinus

 
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Posted by on February 4, 2013 in Agamas, Lizards

 

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Skinks outside of Bangkok

Several other Skink species can be found in Thailand outside of Bangkok. They include:

Reeve’s Smooth Skink
Reeves's Smooth Skink Scincella reevesii

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Streamside Skink
Streamside Skink 8-18-2011 Khao Yai

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Berdmore’s Water Skink
Berdmore's Water Skink Tropidophorus berdmore

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thai Water Skink
Thai Water Skink Tropidophorus thai

 
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Posted by on January 6, 2013 in Lizards, Skinks

 

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Geckos outside of Bangkok

Several other Gecko species can be found in Thailand outside of Bangkok. They include:

Intermediate Bow-fingered Gecko
Intermediate Bow-fingered Gecko Cyrtodactylus intermedius

Doi Suthep Bent-toed Gecko
Doi Suthep Bent-toed Gecko Cyrtodactylus doisuthep

Flying Gecko
Flying Gecko Ptychozoon lionotum

 
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Posted by on January 3, 2013 in Geckos, Lizards

 

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Indo-Chinese Forest Lizard

Calotes mystaceus

Indo-Chinese Forest Lizard Calotes mystaceus

Male Indo-Chinese Forest Lizard basking in Lumpani

Male Blue Crested Lizard Calotes mystaceus in breeding coloration

Indo-Chinese Forest Lizard on fence in Chatuchak, showing breeding colors

Male IndoChinese Forest Lizard Calotes mystaceus breeding colors

Indo-Chinese Forest Lizard in breeding colors in Sathon

Blue-crested Lizard Calotes mystaceus breeding colors

Close-up of Indo-Chinese Forest Lizard

IndoChinese Forest Lizard Calotes mystaceus

Female Indo-Chinese Forest Lizard on Ko Samet

IndoChinese Tree Agama Calotes mystaceus reddish spots

Male Indo-Chinese Forest Lizard in Ratchaburi Province, showing reddish body spots

female Blue Crested Lizard Calotes mystaceus on tree

Female Indo-Chinese Forest Lizard on tree in Chatuchak

Blue Crested Lizard Calotes mystaceus on ground

Indo-Chinese Forest Lizard found on ground during driving rainstorm

Indo-Chinese Forest Lizard Calotes mystaceus head shot

Head shot of Indo-Chinese Forest Lizard

IndoChinese Forest Lizard Calotes mystaceus juvenile

Juvenile Indo-Chinese Forest Lizard on tree in Sathon

English name: Indo-Chinese Forest Lizard (aka “Blue-crested Lizard” or “IndoChinese Tree Agama”)
Scientific name: Calotes mystaceus
Thai name: Ging-ga Hua Si Fa or Ging-ga Suan

Description: To 42 cm long. Snout to base of tail is up to 14 cm. Body is robust and higher than it is wide. Has rough body scales and a back crest that runs from near the back of its head down to the middle of its back. Males have a much more prominent crest than females. Background color is grey to olive with a series of 3-5 reddish spots often running down the side. Head is large. Small spines can be seen just above the outer ear. The upper lip is white. During breeding season the forebody of both males and females will turn a light electric blue.

Similar Species: Oriental Garden Lizards are smaller, are typically (though not always) tan rather than olive or grey, and lack the white lip coloration. Their males turn red and the females turn yellow, rather than blue, during the breeding season.

Habitat: Naturally found in forest, but appears to be able to adapt to encroachment by humans and can be found in treed neighborhoods and city parks. Is almost always found on tree trunks and branches well above the ground.

Contribution to the ecosystem: Helps control insect populations. Provides a food source for diurnal snakes and birds of prey.

Danger to humans: The Indo-Chinese Forest Lizard can give a painful bite if handled, but is not dangerous.

Conservation status and threats: No known conservation issues.

Interesting facts: The blue coloration isn’t the only extravagant aspect of mating for the Indo-Chinese Forest Lizard. During breeding season the male lizard will approach a female face-to-face with its back arched and throat puffed out. It makes strong bowing motions and noddings of the head which appear almost comical. Eventually the female responds with the same posture and jerky bowings and noddings, and breeding commences.

References:
Wikipedia: Calotes mystaceus
Checklist of Amphibians and Reptiles in Thailand
A Photographic Guide to Snakes and Other Reptiles of Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand
The Lizards of Thailand
A Field Guide to the Reptiles of South-East Asia

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2011 in Agamas, Lizards

 

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Short-limbed Supple Skink

Lygosoma quadrupes

Short-limbed Supple Skink Lygosoma quadrupes

Short-limbed Supple Skink found under log in Chatuchak

Short-limbed Supple Skink Lygosoma quadrupes

Short-limbed Supple Skink from above

Short-limbed Supple Skink Lygosoma quadrupes foot

Reduced foot and toes of Short-limbed Supple Skink

Short-limbed Supple Skink Lygosoma quadrupes

Short-limbed Supple Skink found under rock in Lumpani

short-limbed supple skink Lygosoma quadrupes limpani

Short-limbed Supple Skink found in Lumpani (photo courtesy of Mourits Horst Lovholt)

Short-limbed Supple Skink Lygosoma quadrupes light phase

A lighter phase Short-limbed Supple Skink found under log in Lumpani

Short-limbed Supple Skink Lygosoma quadrupes underbelly

Underbelly of Short-limbed Supple Skink

Short-limbed Supple Skink Lygosoma quadrupes

Short-limbed Supple Skink with distinct lines found under branch in Chatuchak

Short-limbed Supple Skink Lygosoma quadrupes top of head

Top of head of Short-limbed Supple Skink

Short-limbed Supple Skink Lygosoma quadrupes

Head shot of Short-limbed Supple Skink

English name: Short-limbed Supple Skink (aka “Linneaus’ Writhing Skink”)
Scientific name: Lygosoma quadrupes
Thai name: Ching-laen-reao Ka Lek or Mea Ngu

Description: To 20 cm long. Snout to base of tail is up to 9.6 cm. An extremely elongated skink with very small legs. Color varies from grey to yellow-brown to bronze, with very thin dark lines running down the body. Head is small and slender. Tail is as thick as the body and about the same length. Legs and toes are so small they can often be hard to see and the skink will first appear to be a snake. Underside is lighter than rest of body and can have a pinkish tint.

Similar Species: Bowring’s Supple Skink is not as slender, has more distinct limbs, and usually has much more coloration.

Habitat: Naturally found in forests, but has adapted to agricultural land, city parks and empty lots. Usually found under rotten logs or in moist leaf litter and soil.

Contribution to the ecosystem: Helps control insect populations, especially termites. Provides food for snakes and larger lizards.

Danger to humans: This lizard is far too small to bite humans and poses no danger to anyone.

Conservation status and threats: Is a widespread and common species that has no known conservation threats.

Interesting facts: The Short-limbed Supple Skink represents an extreme in leg evolution. The very small legs allow the skink to maneuver through dirt and rotting vegetation without its legs getting in the way. When trying to escape from predators, the skink will fold its legs against its body and wiggle like a snake.

References:
Biodiversity Research & Education Outreach: Lygosoma quadrupes
Thailand Office of Environmental Planning and Policy: A Checklist of Amphibians and Reptiles in Thailand
A Photographic Guide to Snakes and Other Reptiles of Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand
A Field Guide to the Reptiles of South-East Asia

 
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Posted by on September 18, 2011 in Lizards, Skinks

 

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Common Sun Skink

Eutropis multifasciata

Many-lined Sun Skink Eutropis multifasciata

Common Sun Skink basking on trash in Dok Mai

Many-lined Sun Skink Mabuya multifasciata

Common Sun Skink found in trash in Uthai Thani Province

Common Sun Skink Eutropis multifasciata

Head shot of Common Sun Skink showing yellow throat

Common Sun Skink Eutropis multifasciata

Common Sun Skink found in Silom showing orange side striping

Many-lined Sun Skink Eutropis multifasciata

Common Sun Skink basking on bush in Chatuchak

Common Sun Skink Mabuya multifasciata

Another Common Sun Skink found in Chatuchak

Many-lined Sun Skink Mabuya multifasciata

Common Sun Skink in Rangsit showing no dorsal lines

Common Sun Skink Eutropis multifasciata

Subadult Common Sun Skink basking at Ko Samet

Many-lined Sun Skink Eutropis multifasciata

Common Sun Skink with no dorsal lines in Phra Khanong

Common Sun Skink Mabuya multifasciata

Common Sun Skink with missing tail in Khao Yai

English name: Common Sun Skink (aka “Many-lined Sun Skink”)
Scientific name: Eutropis multifasciata (Formerly Mabuya multifasciata)
Thai name: Ching-laen Ban

Description: To 36 cm long. Snout to base of tail is up to 13.7 cm. A large, heavy-bodied skink. Bronze above, often with five to seven black lines going down the back. Side coloration is highly variable, sometimes bronze and sometimes dark with white speckles, often with reddish or orangish coloration on the front part of the sides. Head is narrower than body. Original tail is about one and a half times as long as body. If the skink has lost its tail, the regenerated tail may as long as its body or shorter. Throat and underbelly are cream to yellow.

Similar Species: Long-tailed Sun Skink is slender, has a longer tail when showing original tail, and has distinct striping on sides.
Speckled Forest Skink is smaller and usually has striping on side of body.

Habitat: Found in open areas, including forest clearings and edges, river banks, rock outcroppings, parks, empty lots, and near human habitations. Often seen basking on low branches, brush, or walls.

Contribution to the ecosystem: Helps control insect, spider, and worm populations. Will eat smaller reptiles, including smaller skinks and blind snakes. Also eats some plant matter. Provides food for large snakes and some birds of prey.

Danger to humans: Will often bite when handled and can draw blood, but is not dangerous.

Conservation status and threats: Is a widespread and common species has no known conservation threats. Adapts well to human-altered environments. Is an invasive species in Taiwan, New Guinea, Australia, and the southeastern United States.

Interesting facts: Skinks can lose their tail when attacked by predators by having it pulled or bit off, and will regrow a new tail in its place. Studies have shown that a skink that has lost its tail does not swim as well while the tail is missing and loses the energy that is required to grow the new tail. Also, the skink cannot use the same defense mechanism against other predators if the tail is missing. Because of this, anyone trying to catch a skink should be very careful not to grab it by the tail or do anything else to cause it to lose its tail. Most of the time it is better to just observe the skink rather than catching it because of these potential negative effects.

References:
Wikipedia: Eutropis multifasciata
Ecology Asia: Many-lined Sun Skink
Eradication of Many-striped Skink, Mabuya multifasciata, from Green Island
Many-lined sun skinks (Mabuya multifasciata) do not compensate for the costs of tail loss by increasing feeding rate or digestive efficiency
Thailand Office of Environmental Planning and Policy: A Checklist of Amphibians and Reptiles in Thailand
A Photographic Guide to Snakes and Other Reptiles of Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand
A Field Guide to the Reptiles of South-East Asia

 
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Posted by on September 18, 2011 in Lizards, Skinks

 

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Spiny-tailed House Gecko

Hemidactylus frenatus

Spiny-tailed House Gecko Hemidactylus frenatus

Spiny-tailed House Gecko found on building in Sukhothai Province

Spiny-tailed House Gecko Hemidactylus frenatus

Spiny-tailed House Gecko found in building in Bang Na

Common House Gecko Hemidactylus frenatus

Spiny-tailed Gecko found active at night in Khlong Toei

Spinytail House Gecko Hemidactylus frenatus

Spiny-tailed House Gecko found active at night in Khlang Tan Nuea

Spiny-tailed House Gecko Hemidactylus frenatus head shot

Head shot of Spiny-tailed House Gecko found under log in Rangsit

Common House Gecko Hemidactylus frenatus head shot

Head shot of Spiny-tailed House Gecko found active at night in Khlong Toei

Spiny-tailed House Gecko Hemidactylus frenatus foot lamellae

Foot shot of same gecko, showing lamellae

Juvenile Spiny-tailed House Gecko Hemidactylus frenatus

Juvenile Spiny-tailed House Gecko found in hotel in Payao Province

Spinytail House Gecko Hemidactylus frenatus lost tail

Spiny-tailed House Gecko with dropped tail found in tree in Suan Luang

Spiny-tailed House Gecko Hemidactylus frenatus in tree

Spiny-tailed House Gecko active on tree at night in Bangkapi

English name: Spiny-tailed House Gecko (aka “Common House Gecko” or “Asian House Gecko”)
Scientific name: Hemidactylus frenatus
Thai name: Ching-chok Hang Nam

Description: To 14 cm long. Snout to base of tail is up to 6.7 cm.  A gecko of average length and girth. Body is usually grey to brown, sometimes with dark markings. At night they can appear a very pale, almost white color. The head has a light line that originates at the nose and passes through the eye, most prominent in darker individuals. Tail has rings of small spines (longest on the sides) which give it its common name. Individuals that have lost and regrown their tails may have most or all of the spines missing. Toes have the characteristic lamellae of house geckos on the underside. Underbelly is cream.

Similar Species: Siamese Leaf-toed Gecko has tubercles on the sides, and longer, more slender toes that lack the lamellae on the undersides.
Sri Lankan House Gecko has more regular dark markings on back.
Flat-tailed House Gecko has flatter tail with no spines and often has a yellowish underside.
Stump-toed Gecko lacks the spines on its tail and has softer skin and broader toes.

Habitat: Naturally found in a wide range of habitats from savanna to rainforest, but now is primarily known by its association with humans. Is common around hotels, houses, in empty lots, rest stops, and resorts. Can be found in hollow trees and bark and under boards and other cover during the day, and is active on trees and walls at night. At night they can most easily be found near artificial lighting, where they hunt the insects attracted to the lights.

Contribution to the ecosystem: Helps control insect and spider populations. Provides food for snakes and Tokay Geckos.

Danger to humans: Poses no danger to humans at all.

Conservation status and threats: Is common and widespread. No known conservation threats. Its affinity to human habitations has caused it to be introduced to many sites across the world.

Interesting facts: Geckos, like most species of lizards, have the ability to lose their tail when threatened.  In some species the tail does not need to be bit or pulled off, but will actually just drop off with minor provocation.  Over time the tail will grow back, often with different texture and markings than the original tail.  Causing a lizard to lose its tail puts it at a disadvantage because it takes energy to regrow the new tail, and it lacks that defense mechanism against predators until the tail is regrown.  Avoid grabbing geckos, skinks, and other lizard species with sensitive tails to help ensure that their chances for survival stay as high as possible.

The Spiny-tailed House Gecko is one of the most familiar gecko species across the world. It is native to southeast Asia, but will often hide in luggage, shipping containers, and in lumber and botanical shipments, causing it to end up across the world. Outside of Southeast Asia I have found the geckos in India, Singapore, the Philippines, Hawaii, Mexico, and Belize, and they are also known from South America, the southeastern United States, Africa, New Guinea and Australia. As long as they stick close to human habitations these introductions are not an issue, but if they move into native environments then there are worries that the geckos could disrupt insect populations as well as outcompete native lizard species.

References:
IUCN Red List: Hemidactylus frenatus
Wikipedia: Common House Gecko
Hong Kong University: Hemidactylus frenatus
Ecology Asia: Spiny-tailed Gecko
Thailand Office of Environmental Planning and Policy: A Checklist of Amphibians and Reptiles in Thailand
A Photographic Guide to Snakes and Other Reptiles of Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand
A Field Guide to the Reptiles of South-East Asia
Hong Kong Amphibians and Reptiles (2nd Edition)

 
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Posted by on May 6, 2011 in Geckos, Lizards

 

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