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Last Updated: Monday, 27 September, 2004, 10:54 GMT 11:54 UK
Geckos lick pest control problem
Paignton Zoo head reptile keeper Rod Keen and Curator of Plants Ian Turner with a Standlings day gecko
Geckos bred at the zoo are being used
A Devon zoo is using free range lizards to control pests in its greenhouses.

In a collaboration between the Reptiles and Gardens departments, the lizards have been allowed to roam the houses as a form of biological control.

The idea came about after a chance conversation between Ian Turner, Curator of Gardens, and Head Reptile Keeper, Rod Keen.

Mr Keen has already released four geckos into the greenhouses and now a further four are to be added.

We're simply using natural behaviour
Rod Keen, Head Reptile Keeper
Mr Keen said; "We are using geckos bred at the Zoo.

"They are an excellent biological control and will take things like mealy bugs and greenfly.

"We use them in our Reptile Tropics exhibit for the same purpose. In the tropics geckos catch insects in people's houses, so we're simply using that natural behaviour."

Paignton Zoo Curator of Gardens Ian Turner said: "We don't use any pesticides in the greenhouses because plants could take the toxicity into animal enclosures. "

He said they were already using other biological controls including the Australian ladybird and a predatory spider mite.

The greenhouses are being heated so the geckos will be warm through the winter and it is hoped they may even breed in due course.

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