I had a cold-blooded baby

On 7 December 2016 I came across a clutch of small white eggs, about 1 cm in length, hidden comfortably in a crack in a face-brick wall at my home in Cape Town. I knew they were gecko eggs, from having seen a pregnant gecko just once in the previous year:

Found a preggo gecko last night! Hey mama 👀

A post shared by ハナ ピータセン (@hana.petersen) on

It always intrigued me, and I’d wanted to watch one lay its eggs, and then watch the eggs hatch. So I decided I could at last satisfy the latter – I stole an egg from the clutch and took it with me to UCT to incubate it.

Once I got over my general excitement at having found an egg to incubate (with much excitement in the car on the way to campus, thinking it was about to hatch in my hand), I did some research. I found out that house geckos (Family Gekkonidae, Genus Hemidactylus) took typically between 2 – 6 months (months!) to hatch. This drained my excitement a little bit more. I also found out that the temperature at which the eggs incubate is instrumental in determining the sex: hotter temperatures usually yield males. So here I was, at the end of the academic year, with a baby to incubate. At this point I was being a bit irresponsible… I had come to the conclusion that me holding the egg and moving around so much must probably have made it so that the yolk was now suffocating the embryo. I gave up and placed the egg in my friend’s office in a little box that used to hold a pocket-sized 10x magnifying eyepiece. And there I left it, until we returned to campus in the second week of January 2017.

I picked up the box assuming the egg would still be in tact and the gecko would never hatch. But the box felt different – lighter – when I picked it up. I shook it a bit, and then passed it to my friend, not wanting to see a broken gecko egg with a tiny unhatched embryo. She then opened it and announced that the gecko was staring at her and that we were parents.

image of Gary the gecko

Gary the Gekkonidae

The little guy (we assumed it was male on account of the hot weather conditions over Christmas), christened ‘Gary’ by my supervisor (“You have to call him Gary. Gary the gecko.”), was a resident of my office in the Plant Conservation Unit for two days, fed on ants and a housefly, for two days before we released him into the wild of UCT Upper Campus.

 I hope the little guy is still alive and growing. Cheers, Gary.

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