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When most tourists explore the magnificent Inca city of Machu Picchu in Peru, they focus on the breathtaking mountain-top location, the stomach-churning near-vertical drops on every side, the precision of the stone work, the enormity of the human effort involved in the city’s construction, the hundreds of steep potentially ankle-turning steps, the cuteness of the grazing llamas …


I saw all those things but I also saw lizards! As far as I can work out, these are Spiny whorltail iguanas (Stenocercus crassicaudatus), a species of lizard that is only found in the 13,000 km2 region around Cusco. According to the ICUN Redlist website, it is a species of least concern ‘because the agricultural activities that are taking place in its distribution do not fragment or affect in major ways its population’, understandable when the land in this region ranges from 1060m to 6260m above sea level. Very wisely, the Spiny whorltail is not known to venture above 2500m. I found them basking in sunny spots on the stones of Machu Picchu – I imagine they spend most of their days sun-basking as it can get very very cold there, even in the summer months!