I have just returned after conducting a four-day workshop in Nagaland for school children. Among the numerous activities I conducted, one of my favourites was the ‘Why Walk’. I coined this interesting concept just to make the children ask the right questions. When we are out in the forest for a nature walk, everything we see — a bird eating seeds, a butterfly sitting on rotting fruit or a bee on a flower — is followed by a question. Why is the bird eating seeds? Why is the butterfly sitting on rotting fruit? Why is the bee visiting the flower? Every question leads to some answers and more questions, many of which I push the children to answer themselves. It’s a fun activity involving a lot of learning.
On this occasion, one of the creatures that we saw was a lizard, sitting motionless on the branch of a tree. My question to the children was, “Why does the lizard sit motionless on a tree branch for long periods of time?” The children’s answers were bang on — the lizard, a master of camouflage, was waiting for an insect or suitable prey to come along so that it could surprise it and devour it. Being motionless makes it less visible to its predators, such as birds. Finally, not moving helps the lizard conserve its energy.
Lizards are masters of camouflage. And their camouflage manifests itself in many different ways. The Common Garden Lizard (Calotes versicolor) adopts different colours based on seasons. During the dry weather, it adopts mostly shades of brown while during the monsoon it adopts varying shades of green. Another lizard, common in the Western Ghats, the Forest Calotes (Calotes rouxi), too, adopts a similar strategy. Its colour varies from brown to black in the dry season, matching the colour of the tree trunks that it sits on, but during the monsoon, it adopts a greenish colour, matching its surroundings.
Yet another group of lizards, the geckos, use camouflage to protect themselves and hunt for prey. Geckos are widespread throughout the country and they live in varied habitats such as houses, trees, rock piles, termite mounds and rocky outcrops. The most common group, the kind we see in our houses near lights, have pads on their feet, which allow them to grip vertical surfaces like walls or tree trunks. One of these geckos, called the Bark Gecko, has a bark-like pattern that makes it difficult to spot on the bark of trees. Their excellent camouflage, coupled with the fact that they are nocturnal, make them difficult to spot. Check out the trees and the outside of your home with a torch tonight, and you might just spot a cleverly hidden gecko in your own backyard!
I was attending a conference recently. During one of the dinner sessions in the canteen, a friend spotted a leaky tap at the water cooler. He fiddled with the tap to stop it from leaking and when he could not do so, he reported it to the authorities, insisting that the leak be fixed. It is this kind of passion that is needed to stop the waste of resources on planet earth. So the next time you see a leaky tap, make sure you have the leak stopped, even if it is not in your house.
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