Beware where you put your hand


A leopard’s spots never change
       but these Madeiran wall lizards
are something else varying their colour
       to suit their surroundings

Endemic to the island
       you see these comedians
these chameleons
in shades of brown or grey
       or with a greenish tinge
or finely flecked
       with dark markings and
white or creamy underparts
       though some of the males
have red or orange underparts
       and blue throats
but these bright colours fade
       if the animal is disturbed

Under attack
       the brightly coloured tail
will break off and wriggle
       for a few minutes
to distract the attacker
       allowing the lizard to escape

They feed on ants
       or scraps of vegetation
but tourists beware
       they will take a nip
if you place you hand
       where it’s really not wanted

John Lyons

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