I have written before about the sordid history leading up to the hatching of some geckos that hold my heart in their little hands. Although retelling the story itself tends to include varying words and information that feels far more concrete now than it did during the earlier detailing, it feels as though it has both been exhausted, but not covered well enough. There is still some aspect about it that feels wholly unresolved. In some ways, it is dreadfully obvious that the grief weighs heavily on me.
It was far worse a year ago. Vo had passed, and whether or not Nah was beginning to exhibit the same symptoms of some internal, likely neurological, degeneration, I did not have high hopes for the babies that hatched on this day. I didn’t have Skyrim-inspired names for them waiting in the hopper. I wasn’t really sure what to call them.
Art hatched first, I noticed his round little head just hanging out there around 5pm. It was a bittersweet moment, seeing this amazing little creature coming out of his egg — it is always surprising how they manage to fit in there — feeling my heart flutter, but having that damning sense that he too would pass as his siblings had, as one still one. His chunky baby toes were exceptional. Whatever inspired nature to make babies of this species cute must have been amazing. Truthfully, I think that crested gecko evolution likely involved humans — the Kanaky people who inhabited what is now New Caledonia had many very interesting, and often humorous, tales of lizard gods. Of note for humor, The Master of Koné, contains this truly hilarious line: “No sooner does he open the trap than the lizard leaps up and attaches himself to his head, making his life utterly miserable.” Having worn many of my geckos as hats, including Art, I find this is hardly the case. Still! It is quite an image.
Art took to me almost immediately, wanting to hang on me and in my space. He is very unique in his behavior as he trusts me implicitly and prefers I offer my hands to him as a playground so that he may exhaust himself thoroughly. He has napped on me, which is an incredible feat, and recently when exposed to some of my family and he turned his shy self into a terrified little critter, he retreated into my cupped hands as though they were a hide and he knew he was safe. He is truly one of my most beloved.
Three hours later, I noticed the second egg from the clutch was a different shape and location than when I last looked — a good indication that the gecko inside it had shifted and emerged. It is extremely strenuous to break free from such a cage and they are often left tired, stuck with their heads out like this as they get their first breath of air and recuperate only to complete their exit. Ripley’s explosion from her egg was evidentially violent, as her egg contents were splattered all over the bin. Seeing that she may be positioned in an uncomfortable manner, I went to gently prod her egg so she could get better footing and breathing, only for her to burst forth from it.
I’ve never watched Alien. I’m not good with horror movies, but it is truly iconic, and Ripley had emerged like a chestburster. She needed a badass name, and my notion in time that she was female led me to settle on the protagonist herself — truthfully, I don’t care that the naming matches the sex of an animal regardless. Who cares?
Ripley had a little more energy to her than Art did, but seemed to take up handling very well. This…has changed.
To my pleasant surprise, the two of them lived well beyond the ages of their siblings from before. They showed no signs of developmental issue. They both cemented themselves in my brain and heart as my ‘survivors,’ although I will occasionally overtly use the term to describe all five of the babies that are thriving now. Although a friend and I had agreed to split the babies somewhat, she really only ended up with the youngest of the bunch, as my hesitancy to turn Ripley over to her turned into an adamant belief that I would be keeping this animal.
As they have grown I have gotten to learn a bit more about them. Art is still demanding exercise, he trusts my hands, my body, but is very shy of others and is easily scared. Considering that in the wild they are prey creatures and their offenders may often be leachies, I just assume he thinks anything unfamiliar is a bunch of leachies in disguise. I cannot blame him, a leachie barked at me once and it instilled a great fear within me as well (although they can generally be tamed down the same as the rest of their relatives, and are just big wrinkly pickles).
Ripley’s attitude changed an awful lot, wherein she took up her mother’s thinking that it would be better if I was dead, and she would rather I never touch her ever again — funny, if I was handing a gecko off to anyone new it would be either Eddie or Ripley; they are good handlers whether they want to admit it or not. Ripley also went through many periods of mind-boggling growth. I swear I could see her growing if I just looked at her for a few minutes. I am probably not entirely incorrect in that assumption. She often gets called Godzilla for her rapid growth, and I have begun to joke that Braidwood Generating Station was sending me mysterious packages marked “gecko food” for free — if they wanted an IL Godzilla they could just have asked me.
Truly, Ripley has a growth rate that far exceeds any other crested gecko I have seen, read of, or personally dealt with. In a year she managed to get up to 44grams, not even 20 shy of her mom. She’s half an inch shorter than Eddie as well. Here is a garbage photograph to show this:
Compared to Art’s 19gram weight, the difference is startling. I admit that Art is on a slower growth trajectory, however, as even his younger sibling caught up to and is actively surpassing him.
My guess on their sex was correct, oddly. While I do need to check on the youngest of the five, it seems so far that I am correct on all of them. Hard to explain that one, as their secondary sexual characteristics take some time to come in, and the primary ones (namely, the hemipenes on a male) take longer.
They really are my survivors, they really do mean the world to me. It has been quite a year, but it has been one. They are a year old today, doing very well, and growing into their adult personalities as each day passes. I am so lucky to have such amazing critters, one who even likes me!
I cannot wait to see how they continue to grow and change. I do fear Art’s puberty, since the hormones seem to turn my sweet little boys into monstrous sex fiends, but perhaps he will remain as calm as two of my other sub-adult fellas.
Happy birthday, loves. I can never express to you what you’ve done for me, but I will try.