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Vietnam diary: The humble gecko

Vietnam diary: The humble gecko

Monday, August 08, 2016, 18:40 GMT+7

“So I’d just settled into my hotel room when EWWW... there’s this tiny thing walking up the wall! I screamed and called reception...”

Ah... the humble gecko... beloved by expats for their usefulness in keeping the insects under control and loathed by tourists and frustrated receptionists trying to explain that it is part of Vietnam’s ecology and they’ll send the cleaners up to remove it immediately.

A receptionist’s need for the required English to deal with irate guests’ complaints about geckos is probably the most requested lesson in my repertoire, yet I always refuse to teach anything that would lead to the death of an innocent lizard. I often thought it was quite amusing how the country-bred housekeepers would cheerfully pick the geckos off the walls and put them down in the garden soil while the city receptionists would wince and curl up against the doorways in horror.

Even the most heavily fortified five-star resorts, complete with freakin’ lasers, wouldn’t eliminate these little marvels of evolution. So wrongly labeled as ‘bugs’ or ‘a weird thing in the bathroom,’ while the gecko’s place in the tropics is far from secure, it’s the most benign of creatures to humans, posing no significant threat to their health.

They’re amazing little bundles of sticky feet and odd eyes. Did you know that a gecko’s eyesight is 350 times more sensitive than our own? Or that they can see ultra-violet? Their feet are incredibly adhesive, able to hold on to surfaces so well that scientists estimate they would be capable of supporting a hundred kilos if the foot was big enough! It’s such a routine part of tropical life that I don’t even blink when my friendly house gecko comes down behind my laptop to see what’s on the menu. I say hello to the little green visitor which often tilts its head as if to say, “Leave me alone, I’m busy looking for dinner.” You can hardly feel them on your skin although I can feel the foot pads pulling at the hairs on my arms. I’d love to train one (if that was even possible) to sit on my shoulder while I’m riding around town, just to see the reaction on people’s faces.

For a while, I had a giant gecko, called Tokay, hanging around in my roof. He was louder than the construction truck horns but thankfully smart enough to shut up in the early morning. My neighbors frequently visit to gaze at him and tell me for the hundredth time that he brings good luck to the house. I thought I was luckier when they left!

Mosquitos are the real menace we deal with in this climate, but the fabulous geckos in my house (I dunno... maybe a dozen? Or even a hundred?) keep the hazard at bay rather well. It’s well worth the price of having to sweep the tiny poo away each day. My dogs are fascinated by them and will stalk the ‘pesky bugs’ for a long period of time.

Next time you see a humble gecko, cohabiting with humans in perfect harmony, off to work around your house, don’t reach for the insect spray – raise your glass in salute at nature’s tiny, all-natural insect killer. I mean, think of what might happen if you DIDN’T have one around...

Stivi Cooke


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