It's strange, it's rare....and it's over there somewhere...
KEEPERS at Paignton Zoo in Devon are having trouble locating some of their recent arrivals – because their camouflage is so good!
With a tail that looks like a dead leaf, skin like bark and eyes like patterned marbles, Henkel’s flat-tailed gecko is one of the strangest – and best camouflaged – creatures on the planet.
Curator of Lower Vertebrates and Invertebrates Mike Bungard said: “It blends in with its surroundings superbly well - it can go from being grey like lichen to brown like bark and it has a fringe of skin edging the head and body that breaks up its outline and prevents shadows from forming.
"It also has suction-cup feet, a large, triangular head and bulging, lidless eyes which are light pinky-brown or beige with red spots, giving it a curious gaze.
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“It’s like something out of a Tim Burton fantasy – it makes you feel as though reality is on the blink!”
Found only on the island of Madagascar, it lives in trees, hunts by night and spends daylight hours positioned vertically on tree trunks, head down, resting. It eats a variety of insects including crickets and moths and can measure up to 25cms nose to tail.
Mike added: “As masters of camouflage they are great for education work. They also help tell the story of what is happening in Madagascar. If the rate of habitat destruction and illegal collection for the pet trade continues, then the only place you will see these amazing animals is in zoos.
“At the moment virtually no other collection works with this species. They are pretty tricky to keep, as they require quite high humidity in order to thrive.”
The pair can be seen – with some difficulty - in the Reptile Nursery building, but they are described as pretty shy creatures
Henkel’s flat-tailed gecko (Uroplatus henkeli) is not commonly seen in zoos. It is a CITES II Appendix 2 protected animal due to habitat loss and over-collection for the pet trade.