Herping In Haiti For The <em>Sphaerodactylus copei</em>
I spent a weekend in Haiti hoping to find geckos; specifically, geckos of the genus Sphaerodactylus (sphaira meaning “ball” and dactylos meaning “finger”). There are 21 species in Haiti alone, exhibiting great variety. Because the country is littered with mountain ranges, a natural separation of groups of these geckos has led to incredible biodiversity, especially around the mountain areas of Jacmel.
The town of Jacmel is a 58-mile drive from Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince. Riding on the local tap-taps — converted pickups in which a bed liner serves as a makeshift roof — there’s no use being shy because you’ll be crammed into your neighbor’s lap. Just don’t forget to scream, “Merci!” so the driver can screech to a halt to let you off. The things herp enthusiasts do for reptiles!
How does one find a gecko the size of a dime? You need to comb through lots of leaf litter, and even then you may only be granted a few quick glimpses. Sphaerodactylus are some of the tiniest reptiles in the world, and that, combined with Haiti’s incredible deforestation rate — let’s just say they were a challenge to find and photograph.
Amazingly, the gecko gems of the trip were found, of all places, crawling over the patio tiles of human dwellings, where they were confidently boasting their beauty like cold-blooded peacocks. I wanted to share this photo with REPTILES readers; it shows a cryptic form of Sphaerodactylus copei that displayed breathtakingly unique colors and patterns.