A Kenyan Marine Conservationist Finds a Brilliantly Acanthocercus Lizard - Observation of the Week, 11/16/20

Our Observation of the Week is this Acanthocercus sp. lizard, seen in Kenya by @gurveena!

Gurveena Ghataure, a wildlife conservation manager with Fauna & Flora International (FFI), credits her childhood in Kenya for her lifelong interest in nature and conservation, and feels fortunate she was able to encounter so much wildlife at a young age. And having family members around go teach her about nature was helpful as well.

My childhood is all wrapped up in my grandad's binoculars and I can still smell that smell from its leather case and our VW combi in which we did all our trips around the country. I loved seeing wildlife and being out in the wild savannah plains. I used to see giraffes and zebras on my way to school and that never got old! I loved following dung beetles or collecting ladybirds at school and bringing them home.

After attending university in the United Kingdom, Gurveena spent seven years doing conservation work in southeast Asia, including four years in Myanmar with FFI. “Living in Asia was incredible,” she says, “and I got to see so much incredible wildlife - through work but also a lot of it through personal travel. All my travel tends to be focused around seeing a particular species or a type of habitat and the creatures in there! I have a bucket list....which is never ending.”

She’s now managing a marine conservation project in the north coast of Kenya, working with a local NGO and involving the community protecting coastal habitats and small scale fisheries. That’s where she came across the brilliantly colored lizard you see above. “I recently relocated to Lamu for my job and found a house to rent - transitions always being strange,” she says, 

I spotted this lizard in my garden on my first day and it made me so excited. I have been trying to get better at identifying insects and reptiles - particularly lizards. I started keeping track of it and would find it most days around the same trees - that morning it was looking incredibly bright and I think it was trying to court a female and so I took a picture of it.

Lizards of the genus Acanthocercus are found in Africa and the Arabian peninsula, and can be found around human habitation. Like other lizards, males especially can change their coloration as a way to signal to other lizards such as females or rival males. 

“I generally love looking for any wildlife,” says Gurveena (above). “My friends joke that I will get lost following the smallest beetles when we go for a walk.” She uses iNat to log her finds for others to see, and to get ID help. She has a soft spot for marine life and bats, but tells me 

I also like to champion the underdog species that tend to get overlooked. I worked with an amazing conservationist who really inspired that and was a huge influence in my life.

I always knew i wanted to work in conservation as even in my childhood growing up in Kenya - I noticed things were changing with habitats and species. The natural world is incredible and I feel we need to engage everyone to fall in love with nature and appreciate all the things, from the big species, to all the trees, to the little bugs and the fungi in the ground.

- You can follow Gurveena on Twitter and Instagram!

- A Southern Tree Agama makes quick work of two insects.

[11/17/20 - The iNat community has weighed in on the ID of the observation since this was posted and there is disagreement at the species level so I've updated the text and title. I'm just using the genus level ID now.]

Posted by tiwane tiwane, November 16, 2020 21:45



Fantastic observation!!

Posted by claudia_ma 2 months ago (Flag)

That's so cool, @gurveena! I visited Lamu ages ago (pre-digital camera!) and this post reminds me what an incredible place it was. I hope to make it back someday, but in the meantime, I look forward to exploring vicariously through observations like yours :-)

Posted by carrieseltzer 2 months ago (Flag)

Awesome shot Gurveena! Please let us know when you come down south - we would love to welcome you on Wasini Island!

Posted by wasinitourguide 2 months ago (Flag)

Thank you! @wasinitourguide I would love to visit - I am hoping to head down south at the end if Dec or early Jan. Will drop you a line :)

Posted by gurveena 2 months ago (Flag)

So great to hear about what you are doing and thank you for some amazing observations!

Posted by susanhewitt 2 months ago (Flag)

Wow, that lizard! Thank you for all you are doing!

Posted by jmaughn 2 months ago (Flag)

This is really cool! You're a great inspiration for budding conservationists like me!

Posted by elliehawcutt 2 months ago (Flag)

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