I can hear reptiles scurrying into the undergrowth as I walk along the sand track, their bouncing, erratic rustle sounding different than the constant swish of a snake. This particular Plated lizard I discovered hanging upside-down in a clump of grass, looking dead. I have no idea what happened, and knelt down for a closer look. Carefully picking it out of the grasses, I noticed it was still warm and supple, still breathing rapidly. Carrying it to a nearby patch of sandy earth, I set it down and it laid motionless. After a few pictures, I tried to move it under the shade of a low branch, and it burst to life, sprinting back to forest cover in a spray of sand.
I see Plated lizards often, sunning along the edges of savannas. More often, I hear them as they run for cover at my approach. At 30-plus centimeters, most of which is tail, and very short legs, they sometimes resemble a snake as they race noisily through thick grass for cover. Plated lizards are indigenous reptiles here, unlike the Agama lizards thought to have arrived in the 1970′s, hitching a ride in West African fishing boats.