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‘Lanky Gecko’ and his house of lizards

CHIANG MAI: An animal-crazy man in Chiang Mai has shacked up in an apartment with 23 large geckos and chameleons, living with the lizards as if they were pet cats and dogs.

When a reporter from Khao Sod went to visit Suiti Saelim’s apartment in Fa Ham subdistrict, there were lizards everywhere: under the bed, on the mattress, on the windows, on the bathroom walls and even inside the wardrobe.

Mr Suiti, who makes a living washing cars and has the nickname “Yong Tukkae” (“Lanky Gecko”), likes to lie on his bed with the normally-shy creatures sitting on top of him.

He said geckos and chameleons weren’t afraid of each other and were able to live together without trouble.

Mr Suiti brings the lizards to his home in plastic boxes and baskets. He watches them for seven days to see which of them eats food that he offers – these are the ones he can tame. Any geckos that he has to feed by hand or that won’t open their mouths will die in the end.

He gives names to those he chooses to keep and tries to learn their personalities. Then he trains them to sit on his shoulder.

The hardest part is teaching them to stay on his shoulder while he rides his motorcycle. Mr Suiti said geckos usually jumped off in fear at first, but after four or five times they learned to keep hold.

Mr Suiti has five fully domesticated geckos that sleep with him in his bed: “Mr Pao”, “Mr Small”, “Mr Non”, “Mr Big” and “John”.

Mr Non enjoys listening to music with Mr Suiti, though the others are afraid of it and run away from the sound.

Mr Suiti also has two chameleons, “Mr Bird” and “Mr Joe”, which took about a month to train. Chameleons are easier to train than geckos, he said.

“I love geckos,” said Mr Suiti. “If any house has a gecko and the children are afraid of it, I’m happy to come and grab it. If it’s a big one, I’ll even pay money for it.”

Mr Suiti said that geckos were worth a lot of money because some foreigners like to dry them and make medicine out of them. “Geckos only bring benefits, there’s no downside,” he said.

Mr Suiti said he was looking to buy and tame a monitor lizard too. “I think it’s probably like training geckos. It’s probably not hard.”

“These days I work washing cars, and I use the money to get by and to keep animals that I like,” he said.

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