Asian House Gecko
Scientific name: Hemidactylus frenatus
Part of the lizard family, geckos usually hang around the warmer parts of Australia, so there is no wonder why they love Darwin. The ones that hang around our house are Asian House Geckos, which are the only introduced species of gecko in Australia.
They love living around houses where lights attract insects. Geckos are the most successful invasive reptiles in Australia and prey on insects, spiders and even other small lizards. They usually come out at night and they have a distinctive call – “chuck, chuck, chuck” – which is surprisingly loud considering the size of the lizard.
Geckos have little toe pads that allow them to cling onto walls and ceilings, and what differentiates the Asian House Gecko from native geckos is that they have little claws too. They can be grey or pinkish brown with bulging eyes that have no eyelids.
They breed all year round in the tropics and the lady geckos lay two eggs every month or two. Rumor has it that geckos are parthenogenetic, which means that they don’t need males to reproduce, but it is also known that lady geckos can store sperm for up to 6 weeks.
Ta Ta Lizards (aka Gilbert’s Dragon, Centralian Lashtail)
Scientific Name: Lophognathus gilberti
The name ‘ta-ta’ comes from one of their gestures. After they run, they lift their front legs and look like they’re waving goodbye (ta-ta)! We’re not sure why they do this, but it could be to distract predators, and we have also seen them bob their heads after a sprint.
They have small spines along their neck and two broad stripes along each side of their body. Their colours vary from grey to reddish brown but they have been known to change colour from light to dark. They are semi-arboreal, which means they love living in trees but are apt at swimming and running along the ground as well.
The breeding season is between September and February and they lay their eggs in a sheltered nest. The sex of the hatchlings depends on the temperature of incubation, with higher temperatures producing more females.
We’ve had a few dragons launch themselves into the pool. Luckily we’ve been around to fish them out. They are so exhausted they don’t move for at least 20 minutes; we leave them propped on a tree trunk in the sun and they disappear in the scrub soon after.
Green Tree Frogs
Scientific Name: Litoria caerulea
Green tree frogs are usually bright green but can turn brown or khaki green, depending on their mood. Their underside is creamy white and helps the frogs cling to smooth surfaces in conjunction with their toe pads. Females can grow up to 12cm in length while males are much smaller.
They live in cool, damp climates and usually come out after the rain. They munch on spiders, crickets, lizards, other frogs and are good to have around the house because they eat cockroaches too.
Their distinctive ‘wark-wark-wark’ call is only produced by males but both sexes can scream if they are taken by a predator, which is supposed to startle the predator to release them. After the rain, the males come out and ‘wark’ in chorus. Sometimes, there will be one that sings out of time, and then all of a sudden, they all stop – as if on cue.
Green tree frogs breed during the wet season and use still water such as water tanks and buckets to lay their eggs. The eggs turn into tiny tadpoles which eventually develop into large tadpoles with legs and arms. At this point, they leave the water and start their life as a frog. Native to Australia, the Green Tree Frog has protected status under law.
Northern Brushtail Possum
Scientific Name: Trichosurus vulpecular arnhemensis
This is the most common possum to hang around built-up areas in Darwin. They are nocturnal marsupials that eat fruit, flowers and seeds and are protected under the Territory Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 2000.
We’ve seen a couple over the last few months but they disappear as fast as they appear. We rescued this one from the pool filter. After a quick towel dry, we released it and left some banana out, just in case it wanted a nibble when it had calmed down.