In the same week that saw the much publicized discovery of a new species of giant rat in tropical rain forests in the Far East, came news of a humbler, but no less exciting kind for these islands.
It concerned the sighting – and capture, on film, at least – of a giant lizard in La Palma which, like its cousins in La Gomera, El Hierro and Tenerife, had been thought to be long extinct until relatively recent rediscovery.
The chance find of Gallotia auaritae to give it its Latin name, was in fact made on July 13, but was only made public last week. On that day Luis Enrique Mínguez, out hiking in the mountains of the island’s north-east happened upon an extraordinarily large lizard basking by the side of the track at some 12 metres distance.
He had the presence of mind to take several photos of the reptile which, he said, showed no concern and eventually ambled off into the undergrowth.
Observations based on a careful study of the photographs, a visit to the location and comparisons with giant lizards elsewhere in the archipelago have led biologists to estimate the lizard to be a male of about four or five years, measuring between 300 and 312 millimetres in length, head to tail, and weighing around 170 grammes.
A lengthy search of the area in October by giant lizard experts proved unsuccessful, but neither the time of year nor the weather were on their side. It is now planned to organize an intensive programme to track down examples of the lizard which could eventually result in the establishment of a recovery centre like those in La Gomera and El Hierro.