Warrior of Wellassa rebellion lives on in tiny gecko

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New Gecko Godagedaras’ Day Gecko – Cnemaspis godagedarai (c) Chen Lee

While Keppetipola Disawe is the best-known chieftain who fought in the 1817 Wellassa rebellion against the British, another warrior, often forgotten, has now been honoured in the naming of a newly-discovered gecko found only in Sri Lanka.

The name of the hero, Godagedara Rate Adhikaram, now lives on in Cnemaspis godagedarai, or Godagedaras’ Day Gecko, which inhabits a small area in Ensalwatte, Deniyaya, in the Matara district.

The new species is a diurnal gecko, active in daytime, unlike nocturnal species such as the common house gecko or “hoona”. It is tiny, 34-35mm long. In comparison, house geckos can grow to 75-150mm. Godagedaras’ Day Gecko was first observed by well-known herpetologist Dr. Anslem de Silva in 2018. Fellow researcher Suranjan Karunaratne combed the Ensalwatte area to find more geckos of same species and establish its identity scientifically.

Their study, co-authored by Aaron M. Bauer and Madhava Botejue, was published this month in the international herpetology peer-reviewed journal, Amphibian and Reptile Conservation.

The forest patches of Ensalwatte are linked to the Sinharaja rainforest and home to a number of creatures found only in the area. Only about six specimens of the newly-discovered gecko have so far been observed, causing it to be categorised as “critically endangered”.

Most geckos do not have eyelids and have to lick their own eyes to clean them of dust and dirt. Specialised toe pads help them to climb vertical surfaces such as walls, or even cross ceilings. Most geckos can detach their tails in defence. Mr. Karunaratne said Godagedaras’ Day Gecko has these abilities.

Sri Lanka’s list of geckos has now risen to 48 with this discovery; nearly all of them are not found anywhere else in the world. Most of the wild geckos are sensitive to environmental changes and most of their habitats are shrinking, making them a group vulnerable to extinction.

New gecko’s Habitat of Ensalwatthe (c) Suranjan Karunarathna

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