If you enjoy watching nature, then a lizard might be a useful choice for a companion. Lizards make attractive pets, but require diligent care that includes availability of live insects, a large terrarium and fresh water.
Lizards arrived in the Hawaiian Islands along with the Polynesian voyages in 1700-1800, reached the islands from Polynesia on floating debris or more recently arrived in the islands as pets. Currently, 17 types of lizards reside within the State of Hawaii. Lizards commonly eat cockroaches, crickets, flies, mosquitoes, grasshoppers and other bugs. Some of these reptiles drop their tail to escape from predators or expel a foul-smelling material and digestive waste onto their aggressors.
The different species either have distinct toe pads that allow them to scale walls and wiggle across ceilings or possess claws for climbing. The lizard possesses no eyelids and instead has a see-through membrane over the eye. Eyesight and perception of motion remains the two most well developed senses in the lizard to escape prey and capture food. Lizards reproduce by laying their eggs in a wet place, or the egg hatches in the female and the young are born alive.
The common types of lizards in Hawaii:
1) Anoles exist as a diurnal lizard in colors of green, brown, tan or gray. This reptile spends time in the sun to maintain temperature for activity and nutritional intake. One can watch a fascinating activity of the Anole when the animal blows up a flap of skin beneath their mouth called a “dewlap” (throat fan). These lizards often move their heads up and down, perform “pushups” and dewlaps to entice females and to repeal other males from their territory.
2) Geckos dwell indoors and outdoors and most species subsist as nocturnal creatures. This species comes in a multitude of colors. Unlike other lizards, the gecko possesses a voice and makes a chirping sound to talk with other geckos. All Hawaiian Geckos are arboreal or trees dwellers. Gecko’s feet contain both suction cup toe pads and claws at the end of the toe for climbing. This lizard lives gregariously with humans and consumes large numbers of insects (mosquitoes, flies, mites, ants, etc.) along with intermittently licking the nectar or juice from mangoes and papayas.
3) Jackson’s chameleons displays three physical characteristics that separate this reptile from other lizards. As a chameleon, the animal can change colors and designs on the skin rapidly. The elevated eyes move independent of each other and it allows vision in any direction. The unique tongue works like a “sharpshooter” that can rapidly extend to greater than the length of the body to capture prey. The tail acts as a fifth hand that can grasp insects or other invertebrates. The male horns make the animal easy to recognize.
4) Skinks happen to be small lizards that live on or beneath leaf litter, rocks, logs and debris. These diurnal skinks appear with conical heads and smooth, shiny (usually metallic-like) rust brown to grayish brown skin and thrive on insects. Most skink species lay eggs.
5) Green iguanas exist as the largest lizard (3 to 6 feet), but its nature is shy and the animal presents no hazard to people, pets or agriculture. Wild adults fail to make suitable pets though, because the animal will bite and lash out with the spines on its tail and its sharp claws. The iguana looks most like a dinosaur-age animal with spines on the back, tail and under the chin. The animal eats mostly plants, but occasionally insects. The creature follows a diurnal schedule and resides in trees (arboreal).
Benefits of Pet Ownership:
Pet ownership creates a human-animal bond. The presence of a companion animal leads to improvement in mental, social and physical health status. A lizard can make a good companion animal if one is so inclined to choose a reptile.
McKeown, S. Reptiles and Amphibians in the Hawaiian Islands. Amazon.com
Friedman, E. & Son, H. The Human-Companion Animal Bond: How Humans Benefit, NIH.gov