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This stunning lizard is endemic to the island of Sri Lanka, occurring mostly in the southwestern lowland wet zone where it is widely, but patchily, distributed. Combined with habitat destruction, further isolating populations, this may lead to genetic bottlenecking of this species in the future. It is currently listed as ‘Vulnerable’ by the IUCN. I actually came across the individual in the photo below outside the toilet block next to the car park while I was waiting for my students to come out… Goes to show you don’t always have to go to into remote places to find wildlife!


The whistling lizard (Calotes liolepis) in the Kanneliya reserve, Sri Lanka


The whistling lizard is regularly seen climbing on tree trunks, on average 2-3m above the ground, but a lot of information about its natural history is still unknown. When threatened, it can produce a high-pitched whistling noise, presumed to be a defence mechanism. This unusual behaviour has had researchers scratching their heads for some time now, and with little research undertaken on it, it’s still unclear exactly why the lizard does this. One study reports male individuals making the sound but doesn’t specify if it is only the males that are able to produce it. If this is the case, the hypothesis that the whistle is a defence mechanism becomes redundant. 

Sri Lanka is threatened particularly by habitat destruction and illegal construction, and further work needs to be conducted on this species and the island’s herpetofauna in general. Someone throw the money at me and I’ll happily do it!