Antahafisaka is the Malagasy name for a creature new to the Prospect Park Zoo. For those not fluent in African languages, they are commonly known as Henkel’s leaf-tailed geckos.
A trio of these fascinating reptiles can be found inhabiting a space in the Animals in Art area of the zoo. Often found clinging to the exhibit window, visitors can get a close-up view of their unique toe pads, which enable them to maneuver on smooth vertical surfaces.
Their toes have ridges covered with millions of tiny hairs called setae and provide the means for geckos to scale a wall or even walk across a ceiling. Of course, in the wild, this adaptation allows geckos to easily climb trees and branches in their environment.
These adhesive hairs are so powerful that a gecko can support its own weight with a single digit. When they decide to move, their backward-bending toes help create an angle for the setae to naturally peel away from the surface, and then stick again.
Native to the Madagascar island of Nosy Be, these brown and cream speckled lizards have long, wide, flat tails that are nearly as long as their body. The large, gold-colored eyes have no eyelids, but are covered with a clear membrane that the animals will lick to keep clean.
Their shape and color enable them to easily camouflage themselves on tree branches. In fact, visitors sometimes don’t realize that the lump on an exhibit branch is actually a gecko—the trick is to look for the eyes.
Like many Madagascar species, the leaf-tailed gecko is threatened by severe habitat destruction. For years, the Wildlife Conservation Society has worked in Madagascar to protect its precious natural resources.
A community-managed forest zone of nearly 700,000 acres was created in collaboration with local residents. This green belt, Makira-Masoala, buffers the protected forest area and serves as a model for sustainable resource use and conservation.