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Tenerife in the Canary Islands has lizards, geckos and skinks but no snakes

Updated on June 22, 2013

Tenerife has no snakes

It comes as somewhat of a surprise to find, that although the island of Tenerife has a sub-tropical Canary Islands climate with forests and rocky semi-desert ground that would be ideal for snakes, that there are no species of this type of reptile to be found there.

So all people, who are scared of snakes, have absolutely nothing to fear when visiting the island because there are none there.

However, there are some other interesting reptiles to be seen on Tenerife because there are species of lizard, skink and gecko that are found living on the island.

Tenerife reptile photos

Tenerife Gecko
Tenerife Gecko
Tenerife Gecko
Tenerife Gecko
Tenerife Lizard males fighting
Tenerife Lizard males fighting

Tenerife lizards

The most commonly seen reptile on the island is the Tenerife Lizard or West Canaries Lizard (Gallotia galotti), and it has some subspecies with different physical characteristics.

The Northern Tenerife Lizard (Gallotia galloti eisentrauti) is mainly to be encountered in the Puerto de la Cruz area and in other locations in the north. The males are very pretty, especially in the breeding season early on in the year when their backs are patterned with green and they have conspicuous blue markings as well.

There is also the similar but less colourful Southern Tenerife Lizard (Gallotia galloti galloti) that lives, as its name suggests in the south of the island, although it is also found in the north.

The Anaga Lizard (Gallotia galloti insulanagae) is a very rare reptile that only lives on the Roque de Fuera de Anaga, which is an islet on the Anaga coastline of the extreme north. Its location, however, makes it not easily accessible and this offers the lizard protection from humans.

All types of the Tenerife Lizard are omnivorous. They enjoy eating fruit but this has made the little reptile very unpopular with farmers who regard the lizards as pests, and whilst it is illegal to do so,traps and poison may be left as bait to kill them. Nevertheless the Tenerife Lizard is widely distributed all over the island from sea-level on the coast right up to high on Mt Teide, where they are often seen near the tourist centre.

Apart from blue markings on the flanks of the males, and green mottling on the northern subspecies, the lizards are mainly a dark greyish brown, which serves as camouflage against the volcanic rock of Tenerife. Females have speckles and lines of lighter shades against the brownish overall colourof their bodies.

Many tourists enjoy throwing scraps of food to the lizards and this even happens on the seafront are of Playa de Las Américas and at some restaurants where the little animals have learned there are easy pickings .

There is also the much more rare Tenerife Speckled Lizard (Gallottia intermedia). This species was discovered in 1996 by biologist Efraín Hernández, who found them living in the Masca area on the western coast of Tenerife.

The Tenerife Speckled Lizard, which is also known as the Tenerife Giant Lizard, is believed to have been formerly widely distributed on the island, but today it is mainly to be found only living in a small part along the Teno coastline.

Another colony has been discovered on Montaña de Guaza in the south of Tenerife as well. The total number of Tenerife Speckled Lizards on the island is only thought to be to around 500 individuals..

Gecko photo

Turkish gecko
Turkish gecko

Geckos and Skinks of Tenerife

In addition to the lizard species of Tenerife, a species of skink is found living on the island. The West Canary Skink (Chalcides viridanus) has a sleek and shiny body, and with its tiny legs it may look more like a small snake unless you look closely at it.

The West Canary Skink tends to live in walls and under rocks on scrubland, waste ground and abandoned farmland. It mainly eats insects and spiders. This skink doesn't get seen as often as the lizards because it rarely basks in the sunshine and spends much of its time under cover.

There are also two types of gecko that live on the island of Tenerife.

The Tenerife Gecko (Tarentola delalandii) mostly comes out at night when it hunts its prey.It is widely distributed on the island.

It is an endemic species, and can be found under rocks on rough ground, on the walls of buildings, as well as living in the cracks in stone walls. The Tenerife Gecko is usually some shade of grey but is very variable in its colouration. These geckos can make sounds and can often be heard at night when they sound quite loud and are making an unusual noise that is difficult to describe.

The Turkish Gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus) was orignally introduced to Tenerife, and it is thought that it may have arrived by boat via the capital city port of Santa Cruz.

The Turkish Gecko tends to be an almost translucent pinkish-brown flesh colour. This species is also nocturnal. Under cover of darkness it hunts insects and spiders on the walls and ceilings of buildings.

The Turkish Gecko can climb up flat walls and walk upside down across ceilings. It manages to hold on due to its specially adapted feet. These geckos are often found near lights where they catch moths, flies and other insects.

The Turkish Gecko also lives in the countries around the Mediterranean Sea, in North Africa, Southwestern Asia and India, and has colonised some American States where it has been introduced.

The Turkish Gecko can drop its tail if it is in danger but can grow a new one to replace the missing part. Lizards and other gecko species can also do this.

In some parts of the world it is thought that having a gecko in your house will bring you luck. They will certainly help keep the place free of insects and spiders.


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    • Tenerife Islander profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Andrews 

      4 years ago from Tenerife

      Thanks for commenting!

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      This was interesting, as I didn't know there were no snakes on Tenerife. Geckos are among my favourite reptiles, as they eat plenty of insects and mosquitos. Love the brown skink photo.

    • Tenerife Islander profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Andrews 

      8 years ago from Tenerife

      I don't know where you are but you could keep it as a pet I suppose. Many people do keep geckos. They feed on insects. Keep me posted please on what you do with it.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Just found a Tenerife gecko in my lounge, it must have come back in my husbands suitcase from Tenerife. Omg what should I do with it!

    • Tenerife Islander profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Andrews 

      8 years ago from Tenerife

      Thank you! I agree!

    • backwaterreptiles profile image


      8 years ago

      Those tenerife geckos are beautiful.

    • Tenerife Islander profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Andrews 

      9 years ago from Tenerife

      Thank you for commenting!

    • WillSteinmetz profile image


      9 years ago

      Very cute.

    • ReptileRevolution profile image


      9 years ago from California


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