With so much green open space and a low population density outside Asunción Paraguay is a haven for wild life. Those wild spaces cover a number of habitats, from forest to grassland, from swamp to semi desert each ideal for different species of lizard.
One group of animals containing members who can thrive in these varied landscapes is lizards. No part of Paraguay is without it’s resident lizards.
Living as I do surrounded by the woods and grasslands of the Piribebuy area I have my own particular suite of lizards adapted to the local conditions.
As a result of that two of the largest Paraguayan lizards are absent
The first of these is the Green Iguana. A creature of thick forests, especially of trees over hanging the rivers and streams that run through them. This is a large lizard growning to over a metre in length which spends much of it’s life up in the trees living on the fruits of the forest. If however an iguana were to fall from the branches into the waters below it would be just as home there, being a strong swimmer .
As the name suggests these are green lizards. All the better for being camouflaged amongst the leaves. Youngsters have the brightest colouring which slowly darkens with age. These forest dwelling reptiles are relatives of those who were swept out of the forests and into the sea long ago to develop into the iguanas of the Galápagos.
Another large lizard that is absent from my neighbourhood is the Caiman Lizard. These also grows to in excess of a metre in length but for it’s habits prefers swampy areas.
The Caiman Lizard spends it’s days in water hunting it’s prey aquatic snails which make up almost the entirety of it’s diet. To propel itself through the water it has a long flatterned tail. At night to rest the lizard does leave the water to find shelter in bushes and trees.
These two apart I still do see a regular variety of lizards in the garden and the local area.
By far the most common is the Green Jungle Runner. Somewhat misnamed as it is just as happy in gardens as deep in the jungle. This is a smaller lizard with the largest not reaching half a metre in length. As the name suggests it is indeed green although with a browner underside. As with the iguana they darken wth age.
The home of the Green Jungle Runner is a burrow in the sandy soil the enterance of which it blocks when inside. I have many of them living about the garden and a sign of a hot day is when they are up out of their burrows looking for food.
It is a skittish lizard that will run for cover at the slightest sign of danger. Even when relaxed it tends to run for a couple of metres, have a good look around and then run a little further.
The other notable lizard around these parts is far less nervous and walks in a far more confident manner. Being much larger and a formidable hunter it has far less to fear. This is the Tegu Lizard.
It is a favourite of the foreign pet trade due to it’s size and because it can be trained, which can cause some problems with population numbers, but here in it’s natural habitat it is a large aggresive hunter.
Growing to as much one and a half metres in length it is quite capable of tackling a wide variety of creatures from small mammals to frogs and large insects and will also consume fruits. Around houses it can be unpopular and unwanted as chickens are also on the menu.
When ever I have been fortunate enough to have one cross my path it has always done so at a slow confident pace. In the grass and woodlands around here there exists a healthy population.
These are just a few of the lizards of Paraguay and there are many more I could describe such as the geckos, skinks and spectacled lizards but those must be left for another time.
What is the name of the type of lizard on the picture at the top of the page?
That’s a Tegu (outside the dining room window)