An unwelcome gecko

IMG_1878-thumbnail-webImagine my thrill when I found a gecko on the roof of my downstairs under-renovation bathroom. I’d never seen one in the Illawarra. I love geckos. I was quite attached to one that used to keep me company in my dorm room in Wagga when I was at Uni. Another gecko encounter has gone into family legend. We were staying on a farm in Northern NSW and my husband spotted a leaf-tailed gecko on the laundry wall. He lifted our, then 3yr -old daughter up to view it. Curiouser and curiouser she leaned closer and closer then lifted her hand to touch it. Understandably affronted by this action the gecko leapt at her and brushed against her hand. She screamed and claimed the gecko had bitten her (no mark) and it was all Dad’s fault (of course). That night she did get bitten – all over ,by dozens of mosquitos. She had a severe allergic reaction to the bites which resulted in a rush to hospital, adrenalin, and, very nearly a tracheostomy (Just our average happy holiday – there has been devastating floods, broken bones and gastrointestinal illness in other episodes). To this day Daughter Unruly associates her traumatic illness with Dad and the poor blameless gecko. So it’s become a bit of a family joke to ‘blame the gecko.’

So gecko’s make me smile – except the one I found in the bathroom last week. This is an Asian house gecko. On further google investigation I found it to be an invasive specimen out-competing our native geckos and other small reptiles. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xGdKd11_8GE

Asian house gecko

Found on the bathroom ceiling in our Illawarra home (approx. 11cm long)

 

The Asian house gecko or common house gecko (Hemidactylus frenatus) betters the cane toad for its successful spread throughout Northeast Australia. But in even worse news – I don’t live in Queensland or even Northern NSW I live more than 750 km south of Brisbane – in Wollongong.

Is this year’s warm extended summer to blame or is this indicative of a trend of sub-tropical species moving south due to climate change?

I have recorded my sighting and photo on a website called Climatewatch. This site allows individuals to record the location of species sightings so their distribution can be mapped. With the axing of many climate scientists from government bodies sites like this may became more valuable than ever to help us monitor trends in climate zones.

The Asian house gecko has a tapering tail and is pinky-brown to dark grey in colour. They can be identified by the small spines along lower back and edges of tail. http://www.ozanimals.com/Reptile/Asian-House-Gecko/Hemidactylus/frenatus.html They also make a loud chick chick noise. https://www.soundrangers.com/index.cfm/product/63065_827/gecko-asian-house-gecko-call-01.cfmI may have heard this at night but dismissed it as a bird.

Two nights before the gecko sighting I saw small cylindrical droppings just outside the laundry/bathroom door and assumed it was a mouse. I bought some humane mouse traps but had no luck catching any vermin. I now wish I had inspected those dropping more closely as they were possibly gecko droppings. A clue to identifying gecko poos is the presence of small white blobs on one end.

I would be interested to hear if any other of my fellow New South Walians (never thought Welshmen was appropriate term) has seen or heard the Asian house gecko.

I have asked the Queensland Museum to confirm identification but as yet have not heard.

6 thoughts on “An unwelcome gecko

  1. This is fascinating Leigh. I had no idea that we have ‘invasive’ geckos in Australia. I’ve spotted the lovely leaf tail in my laundry at Scarborough. What is it with laundries? Used to get them in my Gymea Bay laundry too. Thanks for all this info and the entertaining details of your family holidays. Are you able to capture the Asian house gecko?

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  2. You are lucky Pat I have never seen any gecko here even when we lived up on the escarpment. We do have plenty of skinks though so these would compete with Asian house gecko. Although at the moment I am sure we have plenty of spiders and cockroaches to go around. The bathroom/laundry at the back of the house is damp (we discovered during reno that the wood in walls had rotted – wonderful) and warm – gets the full western sun. So probably a little bit of tropical paradise for our Queensland invader.

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    • Finally caught today what I have been hearing for about 6 mths every so often chit chit in and around our house. Pretty sure its the same species. We live in the Lake Macquarie area 2 hrs north of Sydney. Heard the same call when we stayed at a motel overnight just south of Port Macquarie (another 4 hrs further north from us) around an outdoor pool area. Even though this is a pest species I don’t really want to kill it and my husband wants to release it back outside in our garden. Any advice?

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      • Hi Anna, I didn’t know what our gecko was when I first saw it and only saw it the once and never heard it again. I doubt I could have killed it. I assume the winter would have killed it off anyway. I think it s a good idea to put it outside then possibly the native lizards will deal with it if the cold doesn’t kill it.It’s called a house gecko because it likes the warmth and shelter of houses(especially humid areas like bathrooms and laundries). It is a worry that you are seeing house geckos even in winter as far south as Lake Macquarie. I think we will see even more reports come summer.

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  3. i found one in my house and let it go outside then found several very small young in the house now, 1 year later i can hear one or more everyday.i live in newcastle. I thought one might have snuck into my surfboard bag while traveling through indonesia

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    • Thanks Lester. Very interesting. I have no doubt that you could get successfully breeding Asian house geckos in Newcastle if we can get them in Wollongong. Had a few other people say they have seen or heard them around here. Probably it would take a pretty tough gecko to survive the temperature of cargo hold (if that is where your surfboard was) and assume it would have to be a pregnant female if you were to associate it with young. Anything is possible but probably more likely your Asian house geckos are part of the land-invasion spreading south.

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