In the dead of night, it creeps along the branches and vines of the dense forest, hiding beneath leafy debris, peering out every once in a while in search of its next unsuspecting victim. Glowing red eyes stare menacingly from behind branches and leaves as it holds very still, waiting, watching, and planning.
Sounds like the opener for the next B movie about to hit theaters in time for Halloween, doesn’t it? But would you believe this creature is actually real? Take a look at those eyes!
Here we have another Madagascar native, scientific name Uroplatus phantasticus, or satanic leaf-tailed gecko. This wonderful little creature lives in the humid forests of central-east Madagascar. It’s the smallest gecko in the Uroplatus family which consists of twelve species with leaf-shaped tails.
Length: between 2.5 and 6 inches (6-15 cm)
Weight: few ounces
Colors: Most often mottled brown, but some have been seen in purple, orange, tan, and yellow. The belly is dotted with little black spots in all cases.
These little guys live in the trees between 1.5 feet to twenty feet (.5 meter to 2 meters) off the ground. They only come out at night and are very shy. In areas where logging has taken place, these animals have all but disappeared.
The satanic leaf-tailed geckos are experts at camouflage and hide very well in and amongst the vegetation that surrounds them. Their bodies are beautifully adapted to cling to and move about the branches and vines they encounter. They have sticky scales under their fingers and toes, and their claws are strong and perfectly curved to grasp the vegetation beneath them.
Their diet consists of insects which they hunt at night. Another fascinating feature is their leaf-shaped tail. Perfectly adapted to “blend into” their surroundings, this trademark feature can be shed to distract a predator, buying the gecko time to flee. Another defensive posture is to flatten their bodies and open their mouths very wide to reveal a menacing red mouth.
Geckos are egg-laying animals (oviparous), and the satanic leaf-tailed gecko produces two spherical eggs at the start of the rainy season. It hides its eggs in the leaf debris on the ground, or among the dead leaves of living plants.
These geckos are threatened by deforestation in their native Madagascar, and also by the illegal reptile or pet trade that still persists around the world. They’re very delicate creatures that require a very regimented environment. Removing them from their world is cruel and completely unnecessary in CrytoVille’s opinion.
The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) includes all species of Uroplatus on their list of animals threatened by the illegal trade in animals. Very sad.
The satanic leaf-tailed gecko is yet another example of the fantastic and unimaginable animals still hiding from us in remote areas of the world. They’re beautiful but also fragile. I think as lovers of all things cryptozoology it would be nice if we could help the causes and movements that work to protect these wonderful creatures, according to our means.
Let’s not forget there are other wonderful animals out there waiting to be discovered, not the least of which are all the cryptids that we love to think about, and in some cases, hunt. So keep your eyes open and your cameras at the ready!