Philippine biodiversity

Veterinary student’s discovery leads to confirmed presence of Ati false gecko in Panay

Jun Aguirre

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Veterinary student’s discovery leads to confirmed presence of Ati false gecko in Panay

ATI FALSE GECKO. The Ati False Gecko found in Barangay Osmand, Malinao, Aklan.

Photo courtesy of Flavio Nava

Until Flavio Nava's recorded sighting of the reptile in Aklan, the Ati false gecko was only previously documented in the islands of Negros, Siquijor, and Cebu

AKLAN, Philippines – A graduating veterinary student at Aklan State University is behind the documentation of the Ati false gecko (Pseudogekko atiorum) which led to the confirmation of the reptile’s presence in Panay Island.

Flavio Nava, who is from Iloilo City, said he was in Barangay Osman in Malinao, Aklan, in early April, seeking to document an endangered bird species that was once spotted by a netizen there, but chanced upon the reptile instead.

“I came to Barangay Osman, hoping to find and document the existence of the endangered southern indigo-banded kingfisher (Ceyx nigrostris), hoping to call for its conservation. But along the way, what I found was the reptile instead which seemed new to me. I have been involved in wildlife photography for 10 years already,” Nava told Rappler on Friday, July 7.

Nava contacted expert herpetologist Emerson Sy to help identify the reptile from the photo he took. Sy confirmed that it was the Ati false gecko.

Sy then endorsed the photograph and documentation to Ecology Asia, a website dedicated to vertebrate Southeast Asian fauna, which published a note on its website on June 24, confirming the significance of the sighting.

“The vernacular name of Ati False Gecko derives from the Ati ethnic group who inhabit the Visayas region of the Philippines, which includes Panay Island. Pseudogekko atiorum has been documented on the islands of Negros (type locality), Siquijor, and Cebu, and was hypothesized to be present on other islands of West Visayan faunal region (Davis et al., 2015; Supsup et al., 2016),” Ecology Asia said in its note.

“This note confirms the presence of Ati False Gecko on Panay Island,” it added.

Nava found the reptile along a stream bank of a secondary growth forest in Malinao.

“The gecko species was only discovered in 2015 and is previously known in Siquijor, Negros Island, and in Cebu. This is the first time that the false gecko was recorded in  Panay,” he said.

Nava said his discovery would not have been possible without the help of barangay officials such as Barangay Captain Nicky Tacud, his friends and field guides Josil and Anthony, and his family, especially his father, Jose Marte Nava, who has supported him in the majority of his field work.

He also thanked Sy for his role in recording the discovery as a scientific contribution.

“This may be a miniscule work compared to others, but this little knowledge collectively forms the understanding of our biodiversity, and what is at stake if we continue to destroy it,” Nava said.

Some Aklanon residents know the gecko by its local name, “dukduk.”

Nava said herpetologists still need to conduct a study on its ecology. –

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