Recently, I witnessed about a dozen 12-year-olds poking at what appeared to be a small animal on the ground with large boards and sticks, about three or four doors down from my front yard. The kids were screaming and laughing about whatever the animal was doing in response to their poking him. I went down and asked them to stop it, thinking I might be able to protect whatever small animal it was. To my shock, it was a beautiful tropical lizard, rather large, who was reacting to the prodding by thrashing about. The kids yelled, “It has no head, it has no head!” and sure enough, something had happened to this poor creature and the head was absent. Nonetheless, the body was still quite active. No one knew where the head was or what had happened to this animal; one of the boys said it had been there the day before.
What To Do With a Headless Lizard
I quickly went home, put on gloves, and brought a cardboard box down and removed the remains of the lizard to the box. This stopped the squeals of the kids (although my grandson said it would be all over school the next day, this tale of the living headless lizard). The lizard’s body remained still and whatever life remained in it quietly ebbed away.
I immediately called our local wildlife rescue, whose emergency number I keep in my contact list. I think the woman answered thought I was deranged, because she told me to call reptile experts to see if lizards can live without a head. My questions was more along the lines of stopping any immediate suffering, although without a head, I wasn’t sure what would receive any pain sensations. But that lizard’s body had some fight in it when I approached the scene, and the children had witnessed it.
I felt sick after witnessing the kids’ giddiness in dealing with the injured body of the lizard. One girl was trying to kick the lizard to the grass at the side of the walk. I know she meant well, but it seemed so disrespectful to this once beautiful animal. I asked her, “Would you want someone kicking your body aside if you were the one injured?” The truth is, no one knew what the kindest thing would be; not one of us ever had to deal with a beheaded body before. I rather hope this is not something that will ever occur again, either.
Becoming the Crazy Lizard Lady
I think I have now become the Crazy Lizard Lady of the neighborhood. My grandson quipped that if you want to rescue animals, this is what you get — sometimes, the animal is a headless lizard that no one quite knows how to help. The lizard posed no threat to anyone; with no head, he was unable to bite, or fight, or get away. But the pathos of what seemed to be a living body detached from a thinking head was frightening to the children, and they reacted by screaming and inquisitively investigating the body’s response to stimuli. The lizard’s body never moved once he was peacefully put into the box but I admit I found the whole ordeal unsettling. It triggered the helplessness one often feels in combatting the human supremacy and speciesism that reduces life to death to commodification.
This large lizard appeared to be an exotic breed, not a local animal. The exotic pet trade results in unnecessary deaths for millions of animals. In fact, right here in the DFW area, the nation’s largest rescue of exotic animals took place two years or so ago, from reptiles to mammals to insects to birds. Over 26,000 animals were confiscated, and some 500 different species of animals were involved. With the help of local rescue workers and the SPCA of Texas, 22,000 animals survived the move and subsequent care. How very tragic to see a beautiful member of a species of lizard reduced to a frightening spectacle on the sidewalk, far from what may have been his or her native home. And how sad for these children to be so unaware of the plight of these animals even as they are being divested of an opportunity to appreciate them. This strange experience left me in despair, both for the individual animal and his wasted opportunity for life, as well as for the children that will inherit this shrinking world of wildlife and biodiversity. We were all left wondering who or what claimed the head of that lizard, what his story was, and how he came to be on the sidewalk on the route home from public school. The headless body seemed to epitomize the daily disasters we in the animal rights movement find all too familiar, a physical embodiment of human detachment from the natural world that results in tragedy, every minute of every day.