19 January 2011 by Julienne du Toit

Rainbow Lizard Tails

The Augrabies Falls National Park is a must-visit for two reasons. The first, obviously, is to see the incredible sight of South Africa’s mother river, the Orange, pouring down a rocky waterfall in the Kalahari desert.

The other is to see the rainbow lizards, inexplicably and unimaginatively named the Augrabies flat lizards.

This is probably one of the densest population of lizards you’ll ever see, and most of them have become habituated to humans, so they’ll let you come quite close. Reptiles don’t usually have much of a social life, but these splendid characters are different.

Not only are the males adorned in an array of ravishing colours - the kind usually seen on a Mexican blanket - but they’re also athletic, acrobatic and feisty.

Their main food source, bless them, is the irksome black fly. Lizards will do 360 degree flips (literally) to catch one. They’re also fond of ripe Namaqua figs and will rush towards any tree where there are lots of birds - usually an indication the figs are ripe.

But the most fascinating behavior comes when they meet females they like. Their pick-up line, as it were, is a series of manly push-ups. If that doesn’t work, some of the sneakier males with ‘low-quality’ territories (for which read poor in black flies) will actually force the issue, biting the female on the neck or one of her limbs and having his way with her.

It’s a very macho world out here. They seem to have nerves of steel, doing back-flips on the edge of perilous dropaways.

So it’s kind of sweet to know that at night, they crawl together into crevices, crammed closely together, and sleep with their tails wrapped around their bodies.

Category: Wildlife

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